The iTunes Store turns 10 on Sunday, and during this decade, Apple has sold billions and billions of songs and apps out of its electronic storefront. But all those videos, apps, and songs have crippled the once-great MP3 player. Before there was iTunes, there was SoundJam. It was the MP3 app of choice for Mac users, and when Apple decided to get into the music game, it purchased the program and re-skinned it as iTunes. Two years later, Apple opened the iTunes music store and the app began its long descent into the bloated Microsoft Word of media players.
With each iteration of iTunes, we hoped and prayed that Apple would make iTunes useable again. And like the second season of Heroes (no one watched the third season), we were once again disappointed every time something new happened. NBC might’ve been unable to save the cheerleader, but Apple can still save its media player–if it follows our advice.
Search used to be great: You typed a word into the search field and items that met that criteria appeared. Simple–it’s how search works everywhere else in the digital world. Now iTunes crams a list of items that relate to your search in a drop down menu instead of the player window. That’s not better. It’s confusing. If you choose an artist it pushes you into the Artists view. Not so helpful if you’re looking for a certain song by an artist where the list view would be a quicker search solution. Roll search back. Simple is better.
Leave the Tunes in iTunes
Imagine if iPhoto was part of iTunes. Ridiculous right? So why are videos stored in iTunes? Even in iOS, Apple has separated videos and music. Stuffing all the media into the app has led to bloat. Video felt tacked on when it was introduced, and that hasn’t changed. The video controllers in iTunes are about as advanced as a VCR. Meanwhile the DVD Player app has far more advanced controller features, and is still with every Mac. Use the DVD app as a starting point for a video player that handles all of your moving pictures.
Apps, on the other hand, already have a place to reside: The Mac App Store. It already showcases the best features of the app store bundled into iTunes. Just move those iOS apps to the App Store app. If you’re looking for apps, you go to the app store. Surprised this hasn’t happened before. Plus, if a developer has an app that’s available for Mac and iOS, both versions can reside on one page. This makes sense, right? I’m not crazy?
Shut ‘er Down
Apple wants iTunes to be open at all times. Why else would it make you get up off the couch when you fire up the Apple TV to watch a video stored on your computer only to discover that iTunes isn’t currently running on your computer in the other room. iTunes shouldn’t need to be on for iOS devices to grab media stored on a computer. A tiny low-RAM footprint helper app should do the trick.
Apple’s Ping social network only shared songs you purchased or actually shared on an individual basis. If a friend was grooving to a certain track or album, you had no idea unless they took the time out of popping and locking to share the track on Twitter or Facebook. Streaming service Rdio has the right idea. It presents the albums that your friends are currently listening to without them having to do anything.