iTunes 12.2 a Missed Opportunity, Really?

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Each new version of iTunes brings joy, frustration and a lot of bad press that shows how bad some tech analysis are short sighted. iTunes 12.2 that came out to support Apple Music is no exception.

iTunes is an aging and complexe software. Bashing iTunes is nothing new. Many were expecting a miracle for iTunes 12.2. An exemple of this is a recent piece by Variety on Engadget. This article was written without a real analysis of what is wrong with iTunes. Let me comment this article.

But aside from obvious bugs, there’s a bigger problem: iTunes needed a revamp, not more features. By simply adding the subscription service, Apple squandered an opportunity for a fresh start.

How can we expect Apple to introduce Apple Music but cannot add more features to iTunes? That makes no sense at all except if iTunes was a bunch of smaller apps. But this is not the case. Yes iTunes needs a reconstruction but this is not an easy task to execute.

Apple released the new version of iTunes late Tuesday. On Wednesday, complaints began to mount, with a number of users experiencing issues with mismatched song titles, artist names and album art. Reviewers generally suggested to hold off on updating iTunes, and one even called the latest version of the app “a disaster.”

Bugs are inevitable. Perfect software is an utopia. Mismatching songs title is a old problem that was already there with iTunes Match. Just google for it. iTunes Match is a service, iTunes is a client to this and this is a back end problem, not an end user issue. Try again. But I’m not done yet.

But the mishandling of existing music libraries isn’t the only problem. Apple also added its music subscription service as one more layer to an already very complex app: Users can now access their own local music files, the subscription catalog, personal recommendations and the existing iTunes download store, all in separate tabs, with crucial links missing. For example, someone browsing the iTunes store isn’t informed that an album is also available as part of his subscription tier.

The issue here relates to the actual Store, not iTunes. That being said, meshing user files with a music catalog of such size brings usability issues. For exemple, it is not always clear what files I really own, what file I can get from streaming. The cloud icon isn’t enough in that regard. I plan to write a seperate piece regarding iTunes 12.2 usability issues.

This pattern continues throughout the app. The music section of iTunes has a radio tab, which showcases Apple’s new Beats 1 online radio station as well as a number of genre stations. But there’s also a whole separate internet radio section, tucked away in a sub-menu, that also organizes online streams by music genres — except these aren’t streams curated by Apple, but actual radio networks from all around the world. Plus there are podcasts, again in a separate section of the app, even though many are published by the very same radio stations.

Internet Radio or iTunes Radio, what is the difference? Seems clear to me: one is outside of Apple’s realm, one is the property of Apple. Both are available from iTunes for convenience but are far apart. iTunes is plagued by more serious issues than this one. Let’s move to the next one.

There’s also a section for home movies, and one for movie rentals and purchases, which is separate from educational downloads, even though both are somehow available through the iTunes store. Add audio books, ringtones, iOS apps and the ability to manage your iPad and iPhone storage, and it’s all too much of a good thing.

Apple should have taken a cue from the way it manages content on iPhones and iPads, and broken out many of these sections into separate apps. There’s no real reason why movies and TV shows have to live in the same app as Apple’s music service, and it really doesn’t make sense to manage devices with the same software also used to listen to music.

This comment is the one who starts to make sense. But it is a dangerous proposal to break iTunes into piece without first thinking about all iTunes purposes. I did such an analysis. Devising a solution is not a easy endavour.

iTunes didn’t need a refresh. It needs to be broken up, and Apple needs to launch an Apple Music app for Windows and OS X in its place.

How do we go from here? How to we break up iTunes without losing users in confusion? Do we need a bunch a smaller and disjoined apps? Maybe there is silent majority who just want to keep iTunes as it is because it is what it is: a complete solution to manage digital content and devices.

How would you change iTunes?

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