The mother of media players, iTunes is still the central hub for sending multimedia content to any Apple device you might own, be it an iPhone, iPad, or Mac. But as Apple attempts to integrate its software and services in OS X Yosemite and iOS 8, iTunes is perhaps the one major piece of the puzzle that’s still left behind.
Yes, Apple splashed a new coat of paint on iTunes last year, also giving the media player a new streaming service called “iTunes Radio,” which was essentially Apple’s bid to compete with rival services like Spotify and Pandora. But the basic architecture didn’t change much at all. All multimedia still needs to loaded onto the iTunes desktop app before it can be shared or stored on other devices. And the desktop app, as always, is still slow. (Apple really missed an opportunity to change the iTunes icon to a jar of molasses for OS X Yosemite.)
So iTunes may be more important than ever, especially as users add more iOS and Mac devices to their households, but the software remains stagnant. And as its recent purchase of Beats Electronics points out, Apple is aware that “music is dying” but needs outside help or reassurance (or both) with its own music product.
Apple may not be able to save music by itself, but making its heavily-relied-on music software the best it can be would be a great start.
Fact is, if people don’t like iTunes — and iTunes is the key to the iPhone, iPad and Mac experience — Apple needs to schedule another, deeper face-lift. And if Apple is still looking for a remedy to its static system, the mind-blowing solution already exists: It’s called “The Internet.”
If there’s one thing Google Play does right, it’s the media store’s accessibility across all platforms — including the web. On Android phones and tablets, the store is easy to navigate. But on the web, it’s even better: The large screen offers more real estate to peruse and sample music, and all content can be purchased, installed, and managed right there online.
Compared with Google Play, iTunes’ lack of online presence and inability to manage one’s library on any device feels restrictive, and in some ways, archaic. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising when you consider iTunes is 13 years old, which is ancient by technology standards (and dog years). But Apple is no longer the walled garden it once was, and it’s about time iTunes comes to represent that change.
Three years after Steve Jobs announced iCloud, iTunes is now connected to the cloud, but it’s not entirely online. Users still need to install the desktop application to access iTunes’ mobile capabilities. And to add insult to injury, iTunes’ desktop application is often bloated and slow.
With iTunes, it seems that Apple is stuck in the past. Digital downloads are on the decline as streaming services are on the rise. Part of that trend explains why Spotify has been able to raise $US250 million in venture capital. And speaking of Spotify, Mashable’s Chris Taylor does a great job summarizing the frustration with iTunes while lauding the things web-based streaming services like Spotify do right:
For years, I stuck it out within the iTunes ecosystem. I defended the iTunes desktop player against all detractors, even as each new bloated version of it found some way to irritate me. That’s because I loathed the whole concept of streaming. Fundamentally, I wanted to own my music. I wanted access 24 hours a day, every day, online and off; I needed to play mashups and other random recordings I acquired over the years, alongside commercially available fare. It was my library, and I didn’t want to pay $US10 a month for the privilege to use it.
When I finally signed up for Spotify, however, it instantly overcame my misgivings. The ease with which you can download tracks and playlists for offline listening shocked me. The speed of the whole service reflected thought, care and expert engineering; it was a world away from the Apple Music app’s frustratingly slow load times on the iPhone. The iTunes playlists I’d constructed over the years were available in an instant. And Spotify’s ability to offer similar-sounding tracks makes iTunes Genius, which seems to take an age every time it analyses my library, a laughable embarrassment.
Take it from Taylor, or better yet, me: The Internet is the ideal place for a music app. I love being able to access my entire library from any computer or mobile device — and not have to wait until I get home to manage all my content. It might be a massive undertaking for Apple to move its monolithic desktop app to the web, but it similarly moved iWork to the web last year. As the nucleus of Apple’s various ecosystems, iTunes deserves to be up next.