Songbird Still Airborne, Takes On iTunes With Improved Device Syncing

Music fans looking looking for an alternative to the iTunes/iPod ecosystem are getting a new option this week with the release of Songbird 1.4, which introduces support for CD ripping and syncing Mass Storage Class (MSC) Devices. The first feature is fairly self explanatory (and frankly I can’t believe it took this long to include), but it’s the latter that’s the most compelling: Songbird now features improved sync for a number of popular MSC devices, including the HTC Hero, Motorola Droid, Nokia N900, and the Palm Pre. The new features are available on Windows only for now, with Mac support planned for release early next year.

To be clear, Songbird has actually offered some MSC support before now, but CEO Jerrell Jimerson says that oftentimes devices don’t work as well as they should using generic support. Songbird has been working with manufacturers to try to make the syncing process as seamless as possible. They’ve inked a deal with Nokia, and are also engaged in less formal partnerships with a number of other manufacturers.

It’s been a rough year for Songbird. As we reported back in September, Songbird’s founding CEO Rob Lord left the company after burning through $8 million from Sequoia Capital and Atlas Ventures. The company brought on board Jimerson earlier this year to replace him, who managed to help raise a new round of funding (though it washed out prior investors and Sequoia didn’t participate). But there’s an opportunity for Songbird to serve as a music platform for Apple’s competitors, and it looks like that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Jimerson says that Songbird’s core functionality, which serves as a media player for both content saved locally to your computer and music that’s streamed from the web, remains fully intact. But the company is also looking to make the product more appealing to a broader userbase. And that includes forming more partnerships.

We’ve previously heard that Songbird has a deal with Phillips to install the software in 5 million music players, which would be a big win for the company. Jimerson wouldn’t comment on that, but it seems like it would fit with Songbird’s new strategy.

Songbird’s increasing support for media sync makes it a more direct competitor to DoubleTwist, another powerful iTunes alternative that supports many devices and that also has a brilliant marketing team.