Everyone is talking about iPhone 5 and what it is and isn’t going to look like. While the hardware drives a lot of features, it’s the software that makes the device what it is. The OS, iOS6 and iTunes, are really going to drive what happens to the latest version of the phone that most everyone loves to hate. Here’s what I think (and would like to see) will happen with the latest version of both.
In the first part of this article, I finished up with what Apple was doing with iOS 6. This time, I’m going to opine about what they need to do with iTunes… and its extensive.
iTunes does a lot…a LOT, A LOT. It manages music and video, it rips and burns audio CD’s, it’s a podcast catcher, it manages ringtones, it manages applications, and it’s a music, video and application store. Its also a social network allowing users to connect, discuss, rate and review all the content it manages and sells.
It syncs all the content is sells and manages to any and all iDevices you own, so it’s a mobile device manager and sync hub. With it, iTunes allows you to specify what content, and how much of it to sync to your mobile devices.
It’s also a freakin’ mess.
Now, with iOS 6, Apple is going to add additional content to the mix – credit cards, discount cards, coupons, redemption codes, boarding passes, etc. What you’re going to manage it all with on the desktop side is still up in the air. Passbook for iOS doesn’t have a desktop counterpart – yet. However, one thing in my mind is VERY clear – Apple needs to do something with iTunes, quickly, or its going to wind up with a bunch of spaghetti code sooner rather than later.
In short, I think Apple needs to break up its iTunes monopoly into a few different applets. Here are my thoughts.
Content Library Management
iTunes’ roots are in content management, namely music. The app started out as a way for users to rip the CD’s they own and then manage their electronic music collection on their computer. It also synchronized the content you chose to your iPod.
Content is no longer limited to just audio. In today’s world, it also includes video – movies as well as TV shows. Currently, iTunes does a decent job of managing the content on your PC, as well as on your iDevice; but it needs to do a better job.
I’ve got HUNDREDS of movies and TV show episodes, most that I’ve purchased through iTunes, representing hundreds of gigabytes of space. Some I’ve ripped from DVD’s that I have legally purchased a license for. Unfortunately, I can’t fit all of this content on my MacBook Pro. It’s just not realistic to think that I’m going to be able to fit my ENTIRE media library on a notebook hard drive; but it is reasonable to assume that I would want to have access to all of it, in different locations, all at once.
I’ve got about 12TB (yes, 12 TERABYTES) of NAS, or network attached storage, on my home network. It’s all hooked together through my Apple Time Capsule. Apple needs to find a way of allowing content stored on a NAS device to be actively loaded into an iTunes Library, without having to load and unload library files. Currently, I either have to create and load a specific library file located on an external drive; or I have to delete unwanted content, reload/copy wanted content from the external drive into an iTunes library over and over.
This requires me to burn internal, home network bandwidth (which isn’t so much of an issue as long as I’m not streaming content internally) and to copy large files on and off my hard drive, which creates data and disk errors requiring me to restart the PC in Recovery Mode and repair the disk.
Break Out Podcasts
Having a built in podcast catcher is great, but may be muddying the water. On the device side, Apple broke podcasts out into its own app. I’m recommending they do the same thing here. In the long run, it’s going to make the management of content a lot easier. It may make you look in more than one place for stuff, but if done right, it should make a lot of sense.
Break Out Mobile Apps
This is a no-brainer. Mobile Apps should be a subset of the Mac App Store. Apple already has a way to manage desktop apps. It would be simplicity to break that out of iTunes and extend it to the App Store. One App Store to rule it all. Period.
Content Store – Extend the App Store
The buying experience needs to come out of iTunes. They have an electronic store on every Mac desktop in the App Store. It would be very easy to take not only mobile apps, which is a logical first step, but music, movies, TV shows, etc., and place the entire buying experience in a single electronic store front.
This is going to accomplish two things: 1) It centralizes all Apple content purchases. Software and multimedia content for your iDevice or your Mac can be found in a single place, and changes to the store or store front can be accomplished without having to tweak the entire iTunes/iTunes Store experience. 2) It unclutters iTunes. iTunes was originally supposed to be a way to organize and sync music. Now it’s a mobile app store, a content store, and a social network and ratings portal as well as a content management tool. It’s gotta be a little ugly in there.
The best thing that can happen to iTunes is that it gets an optimization overhaul. It could be a much better application if it got broken up.
Enhance Sync Services
Apple Sync services sync data in Address Book and iCal to a number of different online services, including iCloud. Sync Services *MAY* manage the sync with your iDevice, but honestly, I’m not entirely certain. However, if it doesn’t, it most definitely should. Getting the sync out of iTunes and bolted onto Apple Sync Services here would be a much better idea. That way, all synchronization is handled by the same component(s) and can be managed at the OS level and not at an app level.
Create Digital Wallet Applet to support Passbook
With the introduction of Passbook, and the rumored NFC functionality in iPhone 5, we’re going to need an Apple developed app to handle the management of this information. I know that I’m going to be able to enter the info on my device, but having a password protected desktop app that allows me to better see and handle this kind of information is much preferred to doing this totally on the iDevice side. The data, of course would be encrypted and synchronized to the iDevice via the new, revised Sync Services, as noted above.
There’s a lot that needs to happen here. iTunes isn’t a total train wreck, but it’s definitely a mess. I would really like to see a bit more than a bit of work done on this ecosystem level app with the introduction of iPhone 5. If it can’t be released in conjunction with iPhone 5, then it should happen as soon after as possible. I know this would require a huge update not only it iTunes, but to OS X as well, as some of my recommendations would require enhancements at the OS level (the App Store and Sync Services)
On the Windows side, things get a bit trickier, as system services would likely have to be created from scratch. The App Store would obviously NOT handle PC apps, but could and should handle mobile apps, as well as multimedia content. Both would be new to the Windows world.
What exactly will happen with iTunes is just as much speculation as what will happen on 12-Sep-12…IF that IS in fact, iPhone 5 Day. We’ll have to wait and see, as with every “box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get…”