A few days ago, AOL released the news that it was in the process of shutting down Winamp, the very popular media playing software for Windows that dominated most of the 90’s. Originally developed by Nullsoft, Winamp became a part of AOL through an 80 million dollar acquisition in 1999. Along with Winamp, AOL also got the rights to streaming media service SHOUTcast, another Nullsoft product. Recently it came to the light that AOL is negotiating with Microsoft in order to sell off Winamp and SHOUTcast. It has also been revealed that AOL is likely to announce the end of SHOUTcast by next week.
Neither AOL nor Microsoft has opened their mouths regarding this news but we are assuming that the deal has not been struck yet. Probably the parties are still trying to arrive at a suitable price. AOL’s intentions about SHOUTcast are largely unclear at this point but it might be a last ditch effort to save both the platforms at the same time.
AOL has not been able to evolve Winamp and SHOUTcast to become key players in the digital music industry. Some may attribute this failure to the cutthroat competition in the market but this could also very well be due to AOL’s shift in focus towards web publishing and rich-media advertising. It has been apparent for the last few years that this tech giant is concentrating all its resources towards development in these niches.
Currently AOL owns many popular blogs such as Huffington Post, Engadget and TechCrunch. It is also extensively working on improving advertisement technology while acting as a network operator between its own and other third party websites.
While AOL never invested the time and money to utilize the properties of Winamp and SHOUTcast in their ventures, software giant Microsoft has had its own bitter experiences in the music industry too. We all remember the failure of Zune. They are now trying to turn things around with XBOX Music which is supported by almost all major platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, Windows RT and of course XBOX 360. Unlike its predecessor, it is a free ad-supported platform that allows streaming and downloaded music and also subscriptions.
SHOUTcast acts as a portal to more than 50,000 radio stations hence it can be a welcome addition to XBOX Music. It currently does not have a feature that can exploit the Pandora-like personal radio experience. SHOUTcast can give it that necessary edge but what Microsoft will do with Winamp is still unclear. Winamp’s compatibility with Android might open up some avenues towards turning it into add on music player for latest smartphones and tablets.