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Monday, June 5, 2017

Why Is iTunes Still a Thing?

Times have changed, iTunes has not.

“It’s like giving somebody a glass of hell in ice water.”

Okay, so the quote above isn’t actually a quote. Well, I said it on Twitter, but it’s not a famous quote. Nor does it technically make sense. But it is, of course, a play on a famous quote.

A decade ago, on stage at the (then-called) D conference, Steve Jobs was asked by Walt Mossberg about Apple’s decision to bring iTunes to Windows. “It’s like giving a glass of ice water to somebody in hell,” Jobs quipped.

It was and remains a great line. But times have also changed.

iTunes is the Worst

Today brought the news that Apple would soon be distributing iTunes through the Windows Store for the first time. This may not seem like a big deal  –  again, iTunes came to Windows over a decade ago  –  but it is a big deal in the context of the forthcoming Windows 10 S operating system, which will only be able to run apps distributed through the store. So, without this move, every iPhone user who buys one of the new Surface laptops wouldn’t be able to sync it with their machine.

Anyway, the jokes came fast and furious on Twitter after the news was announced. But what’s actually funny here is that the jokes are basically the exact opposite of the one Steve Jobs made. Whereas Jobs noted that many Windows users would write to Apple to tell them that their favorite software on Microsoft’s OS was iTunes, no one says that anymore. In fact, no sane macOS user, myself included, would dare say such a thing about iTunes. Because it has been awful for the better part of this past decade now.

In fact, at this point, it’s old hat to rag on iTunes. It has been so bad, for so long, that the joke is stale. And yet, somehow Apple doesn’t seem to be in on the joke. Because if they were, surely iTunes would no longer exist.

Yeah, yeah, I know such software has to exist for a huge number of users. Mainly those who still want to sync their music (and/or files) from their computer hard drives without using the cloud. It is 2017. And yet this is still a thing. And it is a thing for many people.

Bloated Junk Software

But there’s no reason that such software has to be iTunes. Apple could easily make a more svelte piece of software that handles the syncing tasks. And they should. Because iTunes is a bloated piece of junk.

Most of the time when I listen to music these days, I do it through my iPhone. This is true even if I happen to be using my computer. It’s just so much easier and better to play music through my device than through my desktop. Earlier this week, I found myself loading iTunes for the first time in a while to try to listen through my MacBook and it was a comedy of errors.

Pop-up alerts galore. Sign in screens. TOS updates. Then came the automatic downloads. iTunes decided I might want to download all six seasons of Lost in HD right then and there. And a bunch of other old shows. Like a terabyte of data. Even more beachballs.

Did I mention this POS (piece of software, of course) is still called “iTunes”? TV shows. Movies. Podcasts. Audiobooks. Apps. iTunes U. Ringtones. They’re all shoved into this one piece of software. “Tunes” are now a minority.

Of course, said tunes are still probably the most useful part of the app. After all, Apple Music is now a part of it as well. That’s the entire reason I tried to load iTunes. 30 minutes later I was still doing tasks and trying to figure out how to actually play music.

Get a Grip, Apple

Here’s what Apple obviously  –  obviously  –  should do:

  1. Create the aforementioned new syncing app for those old-school non-cloud users.
  2. Apple Music should be its own app. This would include streaming music, your music stored in the cloud, and anything you’ve downloaded.
  3. Then there should be a separate app for the iTunes Store (which should absolutely, positively be rebranded  –  again, “tunes” are a minority and the concept of buying individual “tunes” is quickly fading into time).
  4. The macOS App Store app should be expanded to include the iOS App Store (where you could find apps and “push” them to your iOS devices).
  5. Podcasts should be its own macOS app.
  6. iTunes U should be its own macOS app.
  7. Audiobooks go into iBooks.
  8. Movies/TV should be its own macOS app  –  on iOS (and Apple TV), this is now called “TV” which is fine I guess because it’s the delivery mechanism typically associated with such content. But something to interplay movies into the mix would be better, honestly. I could see something like “Hollywood” working to some extent (and plays nicely with Apple’s California themes), but it’s also probably too region-centric in an increasingly global world for such content…

In other words, this should all work exactly as it does on iOS. The Apple Music app on macOS would be the same as the “Music” app on iOS (which is also confusing given it has the same logo/branding as iTunes on macOS).

Again, this is all so obvious that I’m sort of dumbfounded it hasn’t happened yet. Instead, we’re left with this bloated piece of garbage humorously still called iTunes that people generally hate.

And now Windows Store users will get to hate it as well. Swell in hell.

Reprinted from 500ish Words.

  • M.G. Siegler is a General Partner @ GV (formerly Google Ventures). In past lives, he wrote at TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and ParisLemon.