updated 02:25 pm EDT, Thu September 13, 2007
Winamp 5.5 Beta
AOL's next version of WinAmp is built to draw users away from iTunes, according to advance information supplied to Wired. Version 5.5 beta (link active by 4PM Eastern) will reportedly feature a look much closer to the Apple player to ease newcomers into the software while still allowing the skins and other customizable visual elements that have defined WinAmp since its release in the 1990s. It should also sync and manage music for iPods without requiring a plug-in, though like any non-Apple software the AOL jukebox won't play or transfer protected FairPlay songs due to Apple's access limits.
Some of iTunes' minor features will also be shared but with important enhancements, the WinAmp team noted. Similar to Orb, users will have access to their music or video catalogs through a web-based interface through an Internet connection, bypassing the local network restriction of Apple's Bonjour networking. A playlist sharing function should also allow users to send an e-mail or SMS text message that produces a customized stream. Other WinAmp-specific features will include automatic "scraping" of MP3 blogs to download linked songs and hotlinks to concert ticket purchases or videos aggregated through AOL's services.
AOL is commemorating the tenth anniversary of WinAmp with the release and notes that the program is frequently more popular than iTunes outside of the US, where the iPod and Apple are less influential. AOL intends to launch a completed version 5.5 by October 10th at 10:10AM, when it should be available for free to users of most recent versions of Windows.