Rethinking iTunes — An Introduction

iTunes is probably the most widely used application made by Apple. At first, iTunes was made available to Mac users, then a Windows version was made available and its popularity exploded with the iPod revolution. This was the first major piece of software made by Apple to be used on Windows. It was like a small revolution.

As the popularity of iTunes grew, many people with different backgrounds had to use the software in order to manage their iPods content or legally get new music. As the application grew in complexity, problems started to pop up here and there. Today, iTunes has become a complex assortment of features and services. Hence iTunes in its current incarnation can be seen as a bloated piece of software. A recent review of iTunes 12 by MacWorld is very telling. The “Cons” section reads: “Remains a cluster of many disparate services. Lacks focus”. iTunes has become a frustrating piece of software to use. This is not the kind of thing that made Apple famous. It shouldn’t be this way.

People don’t always know how to do simple things with their device just because iTunes is sometimes hard to understand. I’m thinking about the whole syncing process here, but there are many other issues. The list would be too long to expose for an introduction. We all know someone who switched from the iPhone to Android saying: “Yeah, I’m done using iTunes, what a piece of trash.”. Many people are asking: “Why is Apple forcing us to use iTunes in order to put music on our devices? A simple drag and drop of MP3 files could do it”. These questions are legitimate.

Over the years, iTunes went through many user interface changes, even complete transformations making Apple look as if they couldn’t figure out what is the best way to make this software usable and predictable. After each release, people are complaining. However, we rarely see people coming forward with proposal to make iTunes better and to fix long lasting issues. There is one reason for this. iTunes is a complex software that tries fulfill many needs. If we want to reinvent iTunes, we first need to take a closer look at the application’s history, its mission, analyze its features set and how they relate to each other.

One could argue that by moving many services to the cloud, Apple doesn’t really have to reinvent iTunes as it will eventually become irrelevant with everything in the cloud. Not so fast. Many of iTunes features will always be required, so the need to rethink iTunes in order to offer a better user experience and regain user affection is really there.

With a series of articles, I’m going to go through the history of iTunes, expose what are the issues people are talking about, what are the parts that make iTunes what it is, what could be done to improve this software and how the future of Apple’s services could influence the development of iTunes in the next few years.

Do you have a bad iTunes story to tell? What are your feelings towards iTunes in general? All your comments are welcomed and will help shape the next articles to be published. Looking forward to read your feedback.

Read the next part of this series: Rethinking iTunes — Looking Back

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