Archive for November, 2010

While My iTunes Gently Weeps.

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Apple Culture

As I do most nights for one reason or another, I stopped by Apple.com this past Monday night to find one of their famous countdown clocks to a BIG announcement… being promised was a life-changing iTunes related announcement for Tuesday morning at 9AM CST. My mind began to ponder the possibilities. For an application that I interact with on a daily basis… what could Apple change to improve the experience? What comprises the wish list for the average iTunes junkie?

Beatles on iTunes

So I hit Apple.com again in the morning to see what was going on and… damn… are they serious? The Beatles complete catalog now on iTunes… that’s what was going to change my life? Weird Al tweeted, “Thank you, iTunes! I’ve been very interested to hear these ‘Beatles’ that everybody’s been talking about…” And that about sums it up. Doesn’t everyone who wants a Beatles album already own them in one form or another? Not that Apple won’t be successful peddling the Fab Four… you know they will, every goose Steve Jobs touches lays a golden egg these days… but what about iTunes? That’s the bridge on the mothership and it’s in dire need of something, that’s for sure… so let’s consider the true candidates worthy of this recent hype?

A Number of Possibilities…

proposed iTunes logo

On the web I traverse every day I run into a fair amount of iTunes chatter. By far the biggest meme running is the general distaste for the new application icon that shipped with iTunes 10. Impassioned arguments against it, WIRED ran a contest to redesign it… the winner of that contest is featured at left, which is a nice effort indeed, definitely better than the current logo which isn’t so much terrible as it’s just sort of bland… but would a new iTunes logo have qualified as a ‘life-changing event’? Probably not…

Next in line are the complaints about the graphical user interfaces for both the iTunes app as well as the App Store. When I consider this I always wonder what more could be done? Perhaps a bit of tightening up the ‘ol TAB look-and-feel or maybe just another layer of polish for all the interface elements… but at the end of the day, the interface as it is now gets the job done well enough… wrangling 20k of my favorite songs into a cohesive, searchable library… that’s always been good enough for me. People forget that iTunes is part of the whole iLife suite of software with its ubiquitous dumbed-down interface… there’s a price to pay for that folks, most notably not a whole lot of headroom for innovation… but even if they did trick out the interface, that’s not a life-changing event either…

Indie Record Store

And then there’s the people that are virtually clamoring for a subscription service along the lines of Spotify or Rhapsody so that they can listen to whatever they want, wherever and whenever… How big might this market be? Do you really want another (monthly) hand in your pocket on a recurring basis? As if the high-speed internet, the satellite TV, the Netflix and the cellphone bill weren’t already eating into the grocery budget every month… plus, isn’t half the fun the ‘collecting’ of the music? Or has that become extinct like the independent record stores in our culture? Granted, this development could reasonably have been dubbed life-changing… but I probably wouldn’t have considered it such as my personal library of music will already play for over two months continuously without repeating a song… do I really need more music?

Ping logo

And what about PING, Apple’s new musically-inflected social networking site? Still off the radar with nary a horse in this race from where I’m standing… A lot of potential and an immense installed base of users, but certainly not life-changing… not without a complete re-imagining of why it’s worthy of our time and input and an explanation for why it only engages our music collections… What about Apps? Wouldn’t it be cool to know what Apps your friends were using? Apple virtually has the market cornered on the streamlined App delivery system… why isn’t it a part of Ping? Huge opportunity being missed…

So what WOULD be a ‘life-changing’ announcement within the realm of iTunes aficionados? Well that’s real simple and I know for damn sure it’s what I was hoping to find when I visited Apple.com yesterday morning…

And the Winner Is…

The lifting of all draconian Digital Rights Management bulls#%t from the song files ‘for sale’ on the iTunes Store as well as from all of our individual installations of the iTunes software on our personal computers. No more needing to “authorize” a machine. No more limits on how many devices are allowed to access my ‘purchases’ at a given time… I want to OWN the song I payed $1.29 for, free to use it however I please… that’s the only true dent I’d be able to put in the whole iTunes ecosystem… other than that it works for me… which is why over the last 3 years I’ve spent about $40 buying music in the iTunes store while spending thousands through Amazon buying good ‘ol CD’s that I just turn around and rip into (free) iTunes. How many of you out there are the same way? I’m guessing a lot, especially if you’re over 30 or so…

But instead we got the Beatles and we’re all left wondering if the immense amount of time and resources Apple spent pursuing that Beatles catalog wouldn’t have been better spent trying to convince the hold-out record labels that copy-protection is a dead-end, shooting themselves in the foot kinda trip.

Ku-Ku-Ka-Chu.

spacer