Sitting in every Mac user’s Dock is iTunes, the application that took Apple to another level, supported the iPod, the first iApp to be ported to Windows. iTunes, while less popular than the Music Store it gives access to or the iPod it connects to, remains the central piece of Apple’s music and video puzzle. Without iTunes, no matter how great the Music Store is, today’s iPod success would be very different and Apple would probably be struggling to keep third-party application writers interested in the iPod.
The “iPod + iTMS” solution is constantly praised for its ease of use and its elegance. Truth to be told, it is difficult to beat the combination Apple has got going on here: the Music Store’s interface is clear, responsive, complete, relatively intuitive and certainly beats most browser-based solutions. iPod synchronization is down to an art, to a science and I have rarely seen that part of the process go wrong for good — even if iPods have, like any other device, their share of problems.
iTunes however is slowly turning into a mess. That application, after all, was written in the Mac OS 9 days to rip CDs, not manage DRM and purchase videos online. Don’t get me wrong, I admire and appreciate the work Apple engineers have done on iTunes but I believe now is the time to start fresh and tap into what Mac OS X has to offer.
For starters, iTunes has reached the limits of its planned usefulness. To me, purchasing and reading videos in iTunes makes as little sense as using an iMovie icon in Front row for the playing of videos: it kind of works but it does not make sense — that icon should be QuickTime, the player, not iMovie, the editor. This far-fetchedness shows in every detail of the application:
- The entire interface revolves around music and the Videos pane has little to do with the rest. Big thumbnails with reflection effects? Maybe but not in the middle of an application that uses lists for everything else.
- The CD artwork viewer is definitely not a video player and one has stopped counting the times big bars are to be seen around a purchased video when kept there.
- Full screen video playback, that is handled so smoothly by QuickTime Player, has iTunes stop, jitter, pixellate… It does not feature any controls in full screen mode whatsoever, it does not hide the cursor and, best of all, the screen saver has been known to go ahead and cover it.
- Thumbnail calculation for videos often ends up in iTunes displaying screens of the exact same poster frame — an especially irritating bug for series downloaded off the iTunes Music Store.
- Viewing the source file for a video means triggering the “Show song file” menu item.
I love iTunes and I use it daily. I am however very concerned to see all these issues and discrepancies pile up without raising any concern among reviewers while the darker interface has the web raving and ranting. Slowly but surely, iTunes is becoming a mess.