Walt Mossberg recently described Apple’s desktop iTunes software as “bloated, complex and sluggish”. And I couldn’t disagree more.
He’s not alone. Listen to pretty much any tech podcast, and you’ll regularly hear some very angry tech journos lambasting what Mossberg describes as a program that was once “the envy of the world”. It’s terrible, apparently. Awful. Bloated (there’s that word again). Cumbersome. Long-forgotten by Apple. A disgrace to humanity. Etc.
The problem I have with all of these commentaries is that not a single one of the people getting all hot and sweaty about Apple’s iPod syncing software explains why they’re soiling themselves about it. Mossberg goes as far as saying it took ‘forever’ to sync an iPad to iTunes (why would you ever need to do that these days?), but… that’s it. What else, Walt? Why do you ‘dread’ opening it?
I’m not being facetious, either. I’d genuinely love to know what they all mean by iTunes being ‘bloated’. It is full of features, legacy functionality and, now, cloud-based music. But that, if anything, is progress. It still has to serve those who legitimately use it to sync old-style iPods, but the real problem is its place in the modern world. iTunes just isn’t particularly relevant any more.
I hardly ever open iTunes. In fact, the only time I do is when I need to drag in a ripped DVD in order to stream it to my Apple TV. That’s it. If I’m sat at my desk listening to music, I’ll use my iPhone.
The rhetoric from the likes of Mossberg is that Apple should cut iTunes down to size, rip out the innards, and start again. But what would that achieve? Where would they take it? Rewrite what is essentially becoming a legacy piece of software? Nah, sorry, Walt. The harsh truth is that Apple probably doesn’t really give two hoots about an app that was originally designed to help people amass a digital music library by ripping stuff from CDs. What’s their biggest seller? The iPhone. What does the iPhone do? Deliver a seamless music experience without the need to plug it into anything other than a wall socket when the battery runs low.
Personally, I’m happy for iTunes to continue to receive its annual visual refresh – Apple need do nothing more to it.
What they should do, is turn their attention to Mail, which is, I’m afraid, shocking. It regularly crashes, ceases to receive and send email for seemingly no reason at all and features a mail editor which I’m fairly sure the 1980s will want back at some point. That is anything but a legacy app and is relied upon by millions of people every day. In fact, Apple, if you really are wasting time rebuilding iTunes, stop and put some extra dev resources into Mail!