Rethinking iTunes — Looking Back [Updated]

If we want to rethink iTunes, we must look back and see where this software came from and how it evolved over the years.

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iTunes in 2015

How it all started

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SoundJam MP

The next milestone for iTunes was the release of version 2.0 which introduced iPod support and MP3 burning. iTunes became more than a simple jukebox software. It became a device management tool too, for better or for worse.

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iTunes 1.1

On April 28th of 2003, the iTunes Store was revealed along with iTunes 4.0. That was the first real alternative to CDs and for people to legally get their music. The iPod Photo and iPod Shuffle were released and iTunes had to be augmented in order to support photo syncing. New content type were introduced too: Podcasts. iTunes wasn’t all about music anymore.

iTunes for Windows

Proliferation of Content Types

Visual Revamps

Entropy Law in Action

The Cloud Influence

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iTunes in the cloud feature as seen in iTunes Music view.

A Bloated Patchwork

“I think iTunes is profoundly broken and has just gotten worse over the years. A bloated patchwork, iTunes tries to do too many things and does too many of them poorly. It’s become Apple’s catch-all for media, applications, tethered syncing of iOS devices and iPods and more. And don’t even get me started on iTunes Match. I’ve made my case separately for why I think Apple should follow its approach with iOS and try to divide iTunes’ capabilities into different applications.”

Releases 11.3, 11.4 and 12.0 were introduced to support new devices or new versions of iOS (again). See the pattern here? With new services, new devices, new iOS releases, Apple has to release new versions of iTunes. Same goes with the retirement of some services like iMix, Ping or the Mini Store. Still, iTunes is a complex piece of software for the ordinary people. And it is a complex software to maintain for Apple too.

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iTunes application icon over the years.

In summary, a new version of iTunes is required for one of the following reasons:
- Support a new device
- support a new service or operating system release
- support a new digital content type
- redesign its user interface
- remove a phased out service or feature
- fix bugs, improve performance

With this short iTunes history, we now have the full picture of why iTunes is what it is now. It became a complex application not only because Apple added services, new digital content types or new devices over the years but also because iTunes is a monolithic piece of software that, on the surface, cannot be broken into smaller and more manageable pieces. But, as my next article will demonstrate, if we write down and categorize all iTunes features and the tasks it is designed to accomplish, we can infer six major categories of features that could serve as the basis for proposing a break up of iTunes. Smaller and separate applications could become the best route for Apple to rethink iTunes.

[Update: just stumbled on this from, a visual history of iTunes icons. I think this fits very well with this Medium post. Very cool.]

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Sharing my thoughts and passions about #apple #photography #privacy and #climatechange.

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