Is there an app for Macs or PCs that does more than Apple’s iTunes? Nearly 10 years ago Apple introduced iTunes to the world. At first, it was a Mac’s way to rip, mix, and burn music from CDs.
Then iTunes became the sync and management app for the iPod. Then, along came iTunes Store, iTunes for Windows, movies, TV shows, and eventually the window to the iPhone’s App Store. iTunes does everything, right?
iTunes: Apple’s Trojan Horse
Outside of OS X and iOS, Apple’s mobile device counterpart, iTunes may be the single most important piece of Apple software. iTunes became the Trojan Horse that Windows PC users downloaded and used to become acquainted with, and fall in love, the iPod.
iTunes may do everything but the app has become a struggling behemoth.
iTunes is still required to sync and set up Apple’s mobile devices—iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and iPods—Mac or Windows. Outside of a steady stream of bugs (unavoidable in an app that attempts to do so much), iTunes’ biggest problem is discovery.
How do you wade through millions of songs, hundreds of thousands of apps, tens of thousands of TV shows and movies in a single interface? It ain’t easy being iTunes. iTunes 10 extends the complexity into social networking and on-the-fly-streaming.
iTunes 10: What’s Hot?
Your mileage may vary, of course, but so far the latest version of iTunes is faster—faster loading, faster navigating, faster synchronizing my iPhone, iPod touch, and iPod nano. Not only has Apple changed the logo (removing the aging CD, which is soooo 1999), but iTunes now has a few cosmetic tweaks.
Notice the minimize buttons in the left top corner. They’re vertical, not horizontal. icons in the left column have changed, too. Switching between major section tabs (Music, Movies, TV Shows, App Store, etc.) is faster. Interface tweaks make it easier to move around the sections, and easier to find specific media (not that much easier—there’s plenty in iTunes Store).
The two biggest, and potentially hottest features, are Ping and 99-cent TV show rentals. Ping is a social network for music. Mac360 calls it a combination of Twitter and Facebook. You follow your friends or artists to find out what they’re listening to, what they’ve discovered, and what’s new.
iTunes users now get profile pages. Ping works on both Mac and PC iTunes, as well as iPhone and iPod touch with iOS 4.1. As expected, iTunes runs everywhere you want to be. Mac or PC and all of Apple’s mobile devices (with a screen).
iTunes users can choose from over 13-million DRM-free songs which range in price from 69-cents to $1.29. You can get to iTunes Store from Macs and PCs, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or via the new Apple TV.
iTunes 10: What’s Not Hot?
Despite the cosmetic improvements, an increase in speed and syncing to devices, iTunes 10 remains a behemoth application. There is so much going on, so many graphics vying for your attention, that it’s easy to get lost, become distracted, or just get tired of traipsing through Apple’s media mall.
The left hand column is loaded with items (somewhat muted by the use of gray instead of color) from the Music Library to Rentals to Movies to TV Shows, Podcasts, Books, Apps, Radio, the Store, Ping, Purchased items, iTunes Genius—then, and only then do you get to view your own playlists, along with iTunes DJ, Top Rated, etc.
It’s an arduous effort to navigate through this media mall. But, to be fair, name another online media mall that does it better than iTunes? Microsoft? Google? Amazon?
iTunes 10: What’s Missing?
Movie purchases are there, may be difficult to find, and may not be around much longer. It’s the rental generation, baby. Apple’s latest and greatest idea is to appease the content providers, leave the confines of DRM hell, and give everyone an opportunity to rent TV shows and movies—in HD, no less.
HD? That’s HD as in 720p. Not HD as in higher definition 1080p. Most TV watchers won’t notice the difference, and it gives Apple a reason to get us to upgrade to next years iDevices.
TV shows are a mere 99-cents to rent. You get 30 days to start watching what you rent, and 48 hours to finish watching it. But you don’t own it. Movie rentals include what Apple calls iTunes Extras—some of those goodies you get with DVDs but don’t normally get as a download.
Oh, also missing are apps for Apple TV. This years. Remember, the iPhone didn’t have apps the first year, either. Also missing is a DVR function in Apple TV or iTunes.
iTunes 10: What’s Oh So Cool?
Along with Ping, faster navigation and syncing, and the TV show and movie rentals are two more surprises. The first is Apple TV, a scaled down, faster, non-storage, next-generation device that’s fits snuggly in your entertainment system.
AppleTV plugs into your television and delivers HD video and up to Dolby 5.1 surround sound. It also comes with a remote and iTunes so you can shop iTunes from your TV screen. But Apple TV is a streaming device. It streams whatever is on your Mac or PC’s iTunes direct to the television.
At $99, Apple will sell far more of this generation Apple TV than the last.
The second surprise is AirPlay. Think of it as AirTunes on steroids. Apple’s web site says AirPlay will stream music wirelessly throughout your house. That’s now. Future upgrades to iOS later this year will give AirPlay the ability to stream music, movies, TV shows, video clips, YouTube, and other media on your iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch to Apple TV.
What’s interesting about iTunes 10, iOS 4.1 (soon) and iOS 4.2 (November), and the all new line up of iPods, is that there’s nothing really new. Wireless streaming isn’t new. Online TV show and movie rentals are not new.
Apple isn’t always first to the party, but has cobbled together all these functions into a seamless, simple, elegant solution that works (or, will work) with all Apple’s devices.