When you ask the question of what happened to Winamp it’s a question that you quickly come to realise is a question of “Just what has happened to the whole Media Library/Player industry?” To be frank, it simply lost it’s way, it lost its identity and in that time Microsoft put out some good software in the name of Windows Media Player later adding to that Windows Media Centre. By the time Windows Media Centre was at the core of WMP, even non-users of the program were using it for DLNA purposes and yet a monster in the industry Winamp still hadn’t and still hasn’t rolled out media sharing.
As a long term user of Winamp myself, it was quite beguiling. In the past I had advocated for the removal of the video tools along with the web browser, however for the first time, I was thinking that I may actually want to let Winamp manage my video collection now. But alas, with no DLNA, the very thing I wanted to use it for, wasn’t there and so it was pointless.
On top of that, Winamp has failed to move forward. It’s failed to move forward with the ‘omniskins’. It still only had Bento and is pretty much caving to legacy users when it comes to moving forward. At this point Winamp should look like a Windows native program in the same manner that WMP does but of course in its own flavour. As such, I quickly took to my pen and designed a mockup of what should be Winamp 6. I even released the mockup and got a very warm reception for it. In hindsight there were vast improvements I could make and those came in the carnation of a Songbird mockup.
The issue with media players was that they’ve rested on their laurels. And as the smartphone world has unfolded, they’ve all pretty much acted like lemmings and provided the same functionality. They’ve all come to offer wireless song transfer, but where’s the rest? Where’s the radio? Even if only restricted to Wifi, allow me to hear what I’m playing via the speakers on my phone? Where’s the remote library access? Allow me to think of a track I own and want to here and download it to my phone. There’s also a remote control feature missing. Just because I’m not sitting in front of my PC, doesn’t mean I don’t want to use it to listen to music or be able to control it. And as for the wireless transfer, how about some usability style integration. Allow me to click on the playlist and take the next hours worth of music with me. Also sync my stats for me will you?
But all of that stuff is more about integration with mobile, tablet, etc. There’s also been a glaring functionality problem from the start on desktop. See the thing with me is I get that they have them for most of the bloat, but why not for functional purposes. I talk of tabbed playlists. Where in the world does this idea come from that users only have one playlist and only want one playlist? Mankind is an asynchronous species, we like to do two things at once. If I have a playlist of all the albums I wanna listen to this week but I want to listen to a few songs not of that list for a few hours, should I really have to save the playlist? Of course not and yet this is something of a concept that seems glued into the minds of the UX teams and lead developers of all Music Library/Player software and it’s a real shame too.
So while the desktop lays dormant with a stagnant design and stifled innovation. They’ve all jumped on to Android with a dated almost eighties style interface. Horridly thick borders, over-accented gradients, horribly non-native in design and a lack of features. Unless the media library/player industry (including but not limited to Winamp) sorts themselves out makes a real push for the future, it could disappear under the ease of the native application. i.e. Windows Media Player. That said though, Winamp still remains my player of choice, there’s so little competition and it’s simply the most feature-complete library/player there is. Plus I have the bonus of running the same software on all of my platforms.