Tuesday marked the debut of iTunes, 12.2, which adds support for Apple Music to the Mac.
I wasn't expecting a major overhaul, but what we got reminded me of just how much iTunes needs a major reworking. And by "major reworking," I mean the whole thing should be taken apart, totally reconsidered, redistributed, and rebuilt from scratch.
iTunes 12.2 doesn't change my feelings for the software at all, in fact, it reinforces it.
Long-time iMore readers (and podcast listeners) know of my unbridled hostility towards iTunes. I've been writing about it for almost as long as I've worked here, and I've felt that way for a lot longer.
iTunes 12.2 doesn't change my feelings for the software at all, in fact, it reinforces it. As much as I like Apple Music as a service, the way it's been grafted onto iTunes makes that app's shortcomings that much more obvious. iTunes has become the code equivalent of a Katamari ball, collecting more and more material.
iTunes is a buggy, bloated, user-hostile experience at best. It is so un-Apple it's ridiculous. The word "iTunes" implies the app is about music. When iTunes debuted in 2001, that's exactly what it did. Apple bought an app called SoundJam, simplified the interface, and added the ability to burn CDs. That was it. At that time, listening to digital music on the computer was still a pretty novel concept. It'd be two years before Apple opened up the iTunes Store to give us a way to download pre-recorded digital music directly.
Over the years, Apple has gradually glued on more and more functionality to iTunes. It's gained the ability to play movies and television shows, subscribe to podcasts, play audiobooks, and listen to Internet radio. What's more, it's become an all-purpose device management console for our iPhones and iPads — well, those of us that still tether our devices to our Macs and Windows PCs. Many — I'd venture to say many of us don't anymore.
Because iTunes now includes everything from video to device management, and is kept bundled together for easy Windows porting, its original purpose has gradually gotten subsumed under the crushing weight of all this other stuff. And now that line is blurred even further with Apple Music.
Don't get me wrong. I really like Apple Music. I've discovered new music already, streamed some of it and downloaded quite a bit too. I plan to subscribe for a good long time to come.
I just can't enjoy it the way it's crammed into iTUnes.
For example, "My Music" and "For You." What's the difference? "New," and "Recently Added"? "Radio" and "Internet Radio"? I've figured out what each one does, but it wasn't intuitive—it was maddening.
And that's just looking at the music stuff. Change it to movies or TV shows, see something different.
"Connect" is even worse. It's a clever idea, but as implemented I have to know that I should go to the artist's page on iTunes and click on a "Follow" button to subscribe to their updates. Assuming, of course, that they are updating. Which very few of the artists I care about actually are doing.
And then, grafted onto the end, is the iTunes Store.
Ideally, I'd like to see Apple start with a fresh sheet of paper. Or a fresh Xcode project, as the case may be.
So what's the solution?
Ideally, I'd like to see Apple start with a fresh sheet of paper. Or a fresh Xcode project, as the case may be. Dismantle iTunes entirely. Its functionality could be compartmentalized into separate apps for audio and video, just as it is on iOS.
I'm far from the first person to recommend this, and I'm sure I won't be the last. But with the advent of Apple Music, and so much of the functionality moving to iCloud, Apple has a real opportunity to clean iTunes out and restore some sanity to the Mac.
Apple makes a lot of noise about how music is in its DNA. That may be the case, but let's see it delivered to iTunes on OS X and the company's millions of customers on the Mac.