Should Apple bring iTunes to Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone? [Poll]

Should Apple bring iTunes to Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone? [Poll]

Yesterday on Talk Mobile we talked all about cross-platform apps and while almost everyone from Google to Microsoft -- and soon, BlackBerry -- makes apps for iOS, Apple doesn't make anything for Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone. Steve Jobs once famously said iTunes was a glass of water for Windows users stuck in hell, so what about a few shots of H2O for those languishing in the mobile versions?

Apple doesn't run iTunes as a primary business, but rather as a way to add value and encourage their primary business -- selling iPhones, iPads, and Macs. However, it still generates an enormous sum of money by any standards other than Apple's. Moreover, similar services from Google, Amazon, and others are already cross-platform, and that may add significantly greater value for them than Apple's iOS- and OS X-only services. If you use multiple devices, if your desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile are all run different operating systems, iTunes simply isn't everywhere you are.

Should it be? Should Apple make the iTunes Store app for Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone? Should they make a pure web version that "just works" anywhere? And should iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match "just work" from any device -- DRM permitting -- as well?

Market leaders typically don't have to go chasing after customers, but no one's a market leader forever. Is the platform lock-in still valuable enough to Apple that they should keep iTunes exclusive to iOS on mobile, or could it provide even more value to customers -- and potential customers -- by being truly ubiquitous?

You know the drill: vote in the poll up top, and then let me know how you really feel in the comments below!

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Should Apple bring iTunes to Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone? [Poll]


I think if apple did this and made for more cross platform apps, it could nearly destroy the play store. Imagine how many great IoS apps would come to android and android developers not be able to compete. Not to mention could be a huge money maker for apple.

Agree. iTunes would crush Play Store and whatever Amazon has (and whatever Samsung is planning.)

But it all depends on Apple's long-term goals. Short-term goal for iTunes is to drive sales of hardware. Worked for iPod, and it's currently working for iPod touch, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and to some extent for Macs as well.

But what about Apple's long-term goals? How will Apple be making the bulk of their profits in 20 or 30 years? I think it will be tough for Apple (or anybody else) to make many billions per year on hardware profits. Hardware costs (especially those based on microchip technology) always come down over time, which in turn drive down retail pricing, which drives down profits.

It's possible that iPhone and iPad (and many other hardware products Apple ships in 30 years) will be free. If so, Apple will need to start transitioning to a content and services-based business model ASAP. And that would require more customers and/or more revenue per customer. A whole lot more of one or the other or both. And that might mean porting iTunes to different platforms. But not right now.

And yes, I think Apple's eventual television solution, most likely with iAd heavily involved in the mix, could be Apple's major revenue source in 20 or 30 years. But that's a different thread.

iOS apps vs Android apps are, apples and oranges. A lot of the apps I use on my Android, would never be available on iOS from Apple. The Play Store lets me download a different texting app, a different browser (that isn't as restricted as they are on iOS*), and so on.

I'm not saying one is better than the other, one is better for ME than the other, but some people don't need to change the texting app, or keyboard, or browser. iOS is simpler, but still able to compete, and I don't think simple means one is better than the other, just form over function as it were.

*iOS does prevent use of the native Nitro engine or whatever, so Chrome/Opera/Whatever else can't easily be as fast as Safari.

iTunes (the store and software) is mostly meant to support iOS hardware. So I would say no.

iMessage and FaceTime, however? That's a different story. The value of iMessage and Facetime, for those that already use iOS devices, increases with cross platform capability.

iMessage is the only thing keeping my brother from switching to another phone. If iMessage comes to Android or Windows Phone, he will switch.

Take the example of Evernote. Cross platform and web UI that is smooth, simple and gets it done. This is the way of the future and BB sees it by making BBM apps for iOS. iTunes across the board just makes sense


From the user stand point it makes perfect sense, but for the hardware maker I don't think its so clear cut. Exclusive apps and services lock users inside your garden.

Of course they should. iTunes being available would not compel people to switch to other platforms as there are plenty of alternatives out there, but those on other platforms who did choose to use it would provide additional revenue streams for Apple.

How much money does Apple make off iTunes? I'm talking specifically about iTunes, not the AppStore or Mac AppStore. I thought at one point it was basically a break even business. Doesn't seem like there's a lot of money to be made distributing other people's content.

What would be in it for Apple's customers or Apple? Nothing.

It would be the same problem as iTunes for Windows, a sub-par experience limited by the underlying hardware and OS (or in the case of Windows, actively crippled by the underlying OS) which doesn't give a great user experience or a good impression of Apple's quality.

Blackberry users stick to their platform because they've used it since it used to be good. Now that BBM is just software and not a whole platform, expect to see them move en-masse as Blackberry becomes a software company (potentially a successful one if they ditch hardware) and Android users just want free stuff, so they're not a lot of use to the iTunes ecosystem.

Agreed. No one application represents Apple. The experience is key. Parsing out bits and pieces to other platforms is like judging photographers by the cameras they use. If you port this to another OS and it is limited, drags, fails or wets itself then 99% of the users will blame Apple and not the OS. And even if it is bullet proof, it is not providing the user with the Apple experience which entails hardware, software, performance and design all finely tuned.

My girlfriend's Dell with Win 7 has iTunes with about 10K of my songs on it. iTunes crashes constantly and she complains that she hates iTunes. Yet she loves her iPhone and iPad and has never once complained. On a MBP, MBA or iMac she would love iTunes. But not on Windows and likely not on any other platform where Apple can't completely control the experience.

Apple can keep their own software. They have no need or desire to cross platform. They like having their apps exclusive to their products because they 'trap' their users in their ecosystem to make more money and they are making a lot of money. Microsoft and Blackberry cross platform because they are trying deparately, at least in the US, to expand to stay relevant. And Google's income is based off the amount of users using their services combined with the understanding that not everyone likes android.

If Apple were to make iTunes syncing available to other platforms, it will destroy iOS.

I switched back to an iPhone from Android for one reason only: Media (music and photo) syncing via iTunes. Nothing on the market does this as well as the iOS/iTunes pairing. If it wasn't for this, I would not be sporting an iPhone 5, I'd be sporting either an HTC or Moto Droid phone now.

Apple media can already be synced to these other devices.

My Google Music Manager automatically uploads my iTunes library to its streaming cloud server. My Blackberry software put my iTunes library on my Playbook, during my brief foray into (cheap) Playbook ownership.

So it wouldn't really make a difference in terms of lock-in.

The question is, is it in Apple's interest to have on-device apps for these platforms?

Not sure. On the one hand, they might be able to scoop some more sales. On the other, they'd have to put up with (and be blamed for) Android and/or BB10's caprices...

I'd pay as much as $10 to have iTunes on my Android phone. I won't switch to iPhone due to numerous reasons of options, customization and functionality but iTunes is great on my iPads and iPods. Google music is poor in comparison. Ex. I paid for a song on google music, downloaded and changed roms on my phone losing the song. Well google music did not save my purchase to my purchase history. It only took one time for me to risk money lost there. Google music also became quite the battery hog while not in use. Now I buy songs on iTunes exclusively and I am forced to go through a pc to transfer songs to my android device. Just having iTunes as an app purchase would make my life easier.

Anyone who says they should go cross-platform is missing the entire concept of a "platform war."

The only reason to do this would be to drive cross-platform adoption of some key technologies, thus making them "standards" (FaceTime). Everything else should stay exclusive until the hordes are beaten into submission and the battle is won.

iTunes is a hot mess. I wouldn't want other platforms infected with it. Once Apple have rebuilt it—properly—for modern Macs, then it should by all means be made cross-platform. Until then, it should be quarantined.

At the end of the day Apple is in the business of selling hardware. iTunes was ported to Windows to sell iPods. How does porting it to Android or Windows Phone sell more Apple hardware?

Good point, but Apple is also in the business of distributing content, if at a lesser degree. There is no point in having the hardware if you don't have good content to go with it. A larger user base helps Apple negotiate content deals, which are key to iTunes. If the iTunes division is just breaking even with iOS, perhaps its time to expand its user base.

Apple should focus on the Web for iTunes. That seems to be their non-apple device strategy for Services. Notes, Reminders, Mail, Contacts, Calendar, and now iWork. I imagine that iTunes for the cloud has been under development for a while. Probably since they purchased the LaLa team.

They should create an android App Store and list iTunes in there, then allow ports or iOS apps in there to drive traffic. I know they won't though

Sent from the iMore App

Apple loves to quote the number of credit card numbers they have through iTunes. So if it went cross platform they would be able to grab credit card numbers and sales no matter what device a person uses. The problem would be in maintaining the functionality of the software as it pertains to each platform so if they could swing that I think it would be in their interest to do it.

I don't think so. I like the competition and the different options available for users albeit depending on which smartphone you choose you, by default, choose which platform to handle your music. I think iTunes is already buggy enough for it to not add other users lol

Sent from the iMore App

I think it would be a very good idea or the very least create a lite version which lets you use some of ITunes features like add your device to iTunes, buy from ITunes and says upload only playlists like double twist. They could even charge for it and add a subscription to open up other features. This would protect their eco system because it would be free if you own an apple device and that could be the deciding factor over buying an apple device over one of the others. Apple are missing out if they don't I had an IPhone and loved it and defended apple against all until the Galaxy S4 It was a hard choice to change but I did. And that's my point people will change but apple could still benefit.

Apple can't even manage to make iTunes stable across its own range of hardware, they would have no chance with multi-platform. I just tried to preview a new album in the iTunes store, on my iPad 1, three songs in and the whole app shut down... and it was the only app active. Keep it on the platform where constantly crashing apps are deemed acceptable, on Apple devices.