But is Apple really 'killing' iTunes at WWDC 2019?

Apple isn't killing iTunes on Monday. Tim Cook isn't coming to your house and deleting all the music and movies you've bought and downloaded over the years. There will be no Thanos snap live on stage. No decimation around the world. None of that is true or real in any true or real way.

So, why are there so many headlines saying iTunes is ending and the age of digital downloads is over? Because, apparently, writers can't read, fact checkers can't check facts, and editors are too busy baiting clicks and not busy enough thinking about the needless stress and anxiety they're causing the audience that relies on their reporting.

Burn iTunes, burn

Nerds have been wanting Apple to tear down iTunes for a decade or more. It's big, it's bloated, and the iPhone has long shown that individual apps for Music, TV, and Podcasts were a better, sleeker, smarter way to go.

What about everyone who just wants to sync their iPad without using iCloud, or rip CDs onto their iPod nano from their Windows PC? Screw 'em. Who cares about their comfort level? iTunes has to burn.

This year, though, there have been credible rumors that Apple is getting ready to do just that. Kinda.

It started, as many things do, with Steven Troughton-Smith on Twitter.

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Just a month before, at their March Show Time event, Apple had announced the TV app was coming too macOS, so it made the kind of sense that did.

Then, naturally, it escalated to Gui Rambo at 9to5Mac:

I've been able to independently confirm that this is true. On top of that, I've been able to confirm with sources familiar with the development of the next major version of macOS – likely 10.15 – that the system will include standalone Music, Podcasts, and TV apps, but it will also include a major redesign of the Books app. We also got an exclusive look at the icons for the new Podcasts and TV apps on macOS.

In May, though, Gui followed up on 9to5Mac saying Music wouldn't be a Marzipan app after all. I'll quote this part verbatim since it's important:

The new standalone Music app on macOS will actually be an AppKit application, based off of iTunes. It will include many of the advanced features iTunes users are accustomed to, including things such as smart playlists, advanced library management, syncing with iPods and iOS devices, and even disc reading and burning.

Mark Gurman had been saying similar things on Bloomberg as well.

There will also be a new Apple Music app, which is being developed as a standard Mac program. 

And on Twitter clarified it wouldn't be a Marzipan app.

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Then, just yesterday on Bloomberg, and again, I'll quote verbatim because important:

iTunes has been the way Apple users listen to music, watch movies and TV shows, hear podcasts, and manage their devices for almost two decades. This year, Apple is finally ready to move into a new era. The company is launching a trio of new apps for the Mac – Music, TV, and Podcasts – to replace iTunes. That matches Apple's media app strategy on iPhones and iPads. Without iTunes, customers can manage their Apple gadgets through the Music app. 

Now here's the LA Times's headline — and, to be 100% crystal clear, the LA Times is only one of the many terrible reports on this circulating today:

Apple will shut down iTunes, ending the download era, report says

And the lede:

The iTunes store is a dead service walking.

Oh, so clever. If only we cared as much about accuracy as cleverness, right?

Why accuracy? Because the report the LA Times cites and links to is Bloomberg's from Yesterday. The one I just quoted verbatim. The one that, if you command or control F and search for iTunes Store or downloads you know what you find? Nothing. Because Gurman didn't mention the store or the downloads. He only mentioned the app.

So, yes, the iTunes app for Mac is likely going to be replace by new Music, TV, and Podcasts apps. Deprecated might even be a better word, at least in the macOS 10.15 beta released to developers on Monday. But that has nothing to do with the iTunes store, potential rebranding to Music Store or whatever aside, or the downloads any of us have in our existing libraries.

Gui Rambo ended his last piece by positing:

With the standalone versions of Apple's media apps coming to the Mac, it's natural to ask: what about iTunes in macOS 10.15? According to sources, the next major version of macOS will still include the iTunes app. Since Apple doesn't have a new solution for manually syncing devices such as old iPods and iPhones with the Mac, it's natural to keep iTunes around a little longer.

When Photos for Mac launched a few years ago, Apple didn't eradicate the old iPhoto app immediately and Tim Cook didn't show up at to your house to delete all your photos off your drives.

The Times even says as much at the very end of its… whatever you want to call this word soup:

The specifics of iTunes' reported demise haven't been made public, but music fans will probably be able to access all offerings, including download purchases, through the Apple Music app.

Good thing nobody just reads the headline and everybody skips right to the end, right? God.

Even if Apple announces the new apps on Monday, they won't be released to the general public until this fall and it will likely be years until the existing version of iTunes finally stops running on future versions of macOS. Again, if past is prologue and, in these cases, it pretty much always is.

If only because we haven't seen any reports yet of what's going to happen with iTunes for PC, which is a non-insignificant part of the install base.

So, if you've been at all stressed or worried about any of this, please don't be. And please tell your friends and family they don't have to be either. Hell, send them this video if it helps.

Just don't let the Times or anyone else steal your attention. It's our job to inform and empower our audiences, not panic them just for papers or cheap clicks. Because, the facts matter. Even and most especially in the age of clickbait and social, which has become more virus than viral anyway.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

23 Comments
  • “It's our job to inform and empower our audiences, not panic them just for papers or cheap clicks.” You are talking like you are saving the world. Calm down, man. It's just a ****** bloated software. Nobody cares...well except for Danny, your alter ego.
  • You're just a troll, go home
  • I have hundreds of music files on my iMac, iPhone, and iPad, that, over the years, I have either purchased, illegally downloaded from Napster and Limeware, converted from vinyl LP's, 45's, and yes, 78's into digital form. I have lots of movie files, TV shows, movie clips, and music videos on all thes devices, and for years now, iTunes has done a great job of helping me organize, label, sort, convert, and put those files in whatever order and selection I want to have on each of those devices. And now, I am supposed to believe, according to the wailing and moaning that has come from all corners of internet punditry, that the best option is to break apart my collection into separate applications for each type of media, and separate syncing for each type of media, in order to make things "better" and "simpler" because iTunes is a "bloated mess"? Nothing could be farther than the truth, and I do NOT want this. Yes, I will agree that iTunes can be a bit obtuse at times, but that does not mean it should be broken up into separate applications that will require separate syncing operations every time I plug my iPhone or iPad into my iMac. No, just no!
  • I agree with all of this. Particularly, what's the point of separating music and podcasts? They are all the same file type, typically MP3s. In fact, ALL of my podcasts are treated/copied/cataloged/played as music files. I have never used the podcast app on my iPhones or iPads. I just use the music app. Also - call me crazy - but I have never understood why everyone seems to bag on iTunes. It works just fine for me. Yes, there is LOTS of functionality there. But, when did that become a Bad Thing? Excel is also a "huge, complicated, bloated mess", but no one is asking for separate spreadsheet, charting and graphing apps. Sorry, but 3 apps to do the same job that 1 is currently doing, is not progress. In fact, it is going backwards. Consolidation is progress, fragmentation is not.
  • I'd like to see iTunes a bit more streamlined. I'd extricate the iTunes STORE from the itunes APPLICATION proper.
  • I'd like to have a way of transferring files outside of the syncing mechanism, no more "This is a new PC, shall I wipe all your data?". Just want to be able to drag and drop to and from the device
  • That would be a nice feature and one I'd welcome myself. I think honestly all this nonsense about "iTunes going away" is just that - nonsense. It'll probably get rebranded and hopefully, the store split from the media portion itself, but people still have large media libraries that need to be synced so the underlying core of iTunes isn't going anywhere imo.
  • If they want to separate anything from iTunes into its own application, it would be Apple Music. I thought it was odd that such a major thing was smashed into iTunes as the "For You" tab and not even labelled "Apple Music". Since it does not involve keeping any physical files on your computer, only online streaming, it makes sense that it would be a separate application. iTunes does have its flaws, I will agree with that, but after watching the presentation yesterday, I am still not convinced that the breakup is a good thing. I will have to see the new syncing procedure in action and watch what happens.
  • It's not OK to attack the media in this era Rene, or haven't you heard? The media is today's heroes. Always to be believed, never to be criticized. Always right, never with an agenda. Always at the forefront of making the world a better place, never at the forefront of stoking the flames of unnecessary panic, or hysteria. I think you better get back into lock step, before you're exposed as some sort of traitorous demon. Excelsior!
  • iMore needs to change their name to "The idiots guide to Apple devices." So many of these articles talk down to their readers like we are idiots. Yes we know Rene that Apple isn't getting rid of a way to sync and play our music and videos and that they are just separating them into two different pieces of software. We don't need an entire write up on it.
  • I can understand your point but some of us non-technical people need articles like this
  • Really. You needed an article to explain to you that Apple is completely deleting their music app and wiping all of it off of your computer? I don't think you did.
  • I think Rene made this article because he simply wanted to cover the topic, I don't know who it's mainly targeted to, but this is just his writing style, it's not to everyone's taste
  • I would hope they are getting rid of the sync, or at least providing another way to easily move files between a computer and an iPhone. Nothing worse than plugging your phone into a new computer and it wanting to wipe the phone because it's a new iTunes library. Guess you can use AirDrop for a lot of things on the Mac but nothing else I know of for Windows, at least not from Apple. I bought iMazing because that improves things a lot
  • While I get that they won’t be killing iTunes on Monday, I worry about plans for the future. I’ve read several blog and twitter posts from influential bloggers and podcasters complain about iTunes saying things like “I get all of my music from Apple Music or Spotify and my movies from iTunes so I can always get to my content”. That’s great for those users but I’ve been ripping CDs and DVDs since my first second generation Apple TV and syncing that content to my iPhone and iPad for years. I play home movies that are in iTunes on my Apple TV. Getting rid of iTunes without a replacement for how I do those things would be bad for me. I worry about Apple listening to these influential people thinking they represent the majority of their users.
  • I can't imagine the majority of users are ripping CDs and DVDs though, especially given that all the available Macs now don't come with CD drives. Apple should focus on the majority of users, whatever that is
  • Probably not but there are few old farts (like myself) that like physical media and use and rip cd's/dvd's/home movies quite a bit but like you said, we are a minority. I'm curious if Apple still sells that external cd/dvd drive. That might be a nice thing for people like me.
  • There will always be external CD/DVD drives, not sure if Apple sells them but others will, and there will always be software for burning/ripping, possibly better than Apple's own
  • So the premise of this article boils down to interpretation of what killing iTunes means. You went so far as to say people were too busy writing click bait. To some, if the iTunes app disappears, that means it is killed. I am not sure I see how this is any more or less click bait than what others have written. If Apple wasn't killing iTunes, an objective view would be that the iTunes app would continue on. This isn't even what you indicate, acknowledging the app is likely to go away, but the store will get moved/rebranded. That becomes subjective and not objective.
  • What changes, if any, are coming to the iTunes for Windows 10 app? I use it along with the iTunes app on my iPads.
  • Nothing. iTunes on Windows will remain as it is. IMO, good. I use it every day.
  • I just finished watching the whole WWDC keynote and all was fine until they got to iTunes. Left me confused since they spent so little time on it and didn't say what happens to our own media or where it goes. I have 10TB in my own movies and TV shows along with stuff I bought from iTunes. I imagine the new TV app will have a place for our media? At least TV and Movies. Even the new TV app on the Apple TV only has movies and tv shows we bought from apple, none of our media. We have to go to the Computer app to see our media. I look forward to people who can try our the Dev Beta now and report back on how these changes are going to work.
  • Is it safe to assume that my 1st gen intel iMac will still do all the same with legacy iTunes?