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iTunes' Windows Problem 332

Posted by samzenpus
from the play-nice dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Jean-Louis Gassée writes that iTunes is the best thing that has happened to Apple because without iTunes' innovative micropayment system and its new way of selling songs one at a time, the iPod would have been just another commodity MP3 player. The well-debugged iTunes infrastructure turned out to be a godsend for the emergence of the iPhone. But today, the toxic waste of success cripples iTunes: increasingly non-sensical complexity, inconsistencies, layers of patches over layers of patches ending up in a structure so labyrinthine no individual can internalize it any longer. 'It's a giant kitchen sink piled high with loosely related features, and it's highly un-Apple-like' says Allen Pike. 'Users know it, critics know it, and you can bet the iTunes team knows it. But for the love of god, why?' People naturally suggest splitting iTunes into multiple apps, but Apple can't, because many, if not most iOS users are on Windows. It's Apple's one and only foothold on Windows, so it needs to support everything an iOS device owner could need to do with their device. 'Can you imagine the support hurricane it would cause if Windows users suddenly needed to download, install, and use 3-4 different apps to sync and manage their media on their iPhone?' But help may be on the way with iOS 5. As iCloud duplicates more and more of iTunes' sync functionality, they can start removing it from iTunes. 'Apple is very explicit about it in their marketing materials: they call it "PC Free". They're not quite there yet, but they're driving towards a future where you don't need to manage your iOS device with a PC at all – Mac or Windows.'"
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iTunes' Windows Problem

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  • Uhm, no... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jawtheshark (198669) * <slashdot&jawtheshark,com> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @11:43AM (#39711065) Homepage Journal

    Download and install 3 or more apps? No! You can easily avoid this. It's very simple: split up the apps, call the whole thing "iTunes Suite" (or "iTunes Pack", or "iTunes $WHATEVER") and provide one MSI/installer that installs these new three or more applications. In the first iterations, do add an iTunes application that does nothing more than provide you with a choice of "what do you want to do", per application, one friendly big icon with explanatory text.... and you're done.

    Of course, that's the user-facing parts. Splitting up these applications is most likely what holds this back. Not the fact that it would be "strange" for the end-user. Especially, Windows users, who are used to nasty, nasty and continual changes in their interfaces.

    All in all: it's a non issue. It can be split, it's just a herculeanean task.

    However, they're already very close to the PC Free situation. My wife never connects her iPhone to her machine. I do sometimes, but only to be sure there is a backup. I really should switch her backup to iCloud or something.

  • Why an app at all? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Richard Fairhurst (900015) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @11:50AM (#39711163) Homepage
    I'm always bemused why Apple doesn't bake closer iPhone/iPad integration into the Finder itself - the "root UI" of OS X, if you will. Shouldn't syncing between your Mac and your iPhone be a core service these days? And no, it doesn't solve the Windows problem - except if you're Apple. "See, if you have a PC you have to use this external app. But if you switch to a Mac, look how easy syncing is..." But then I'm an old grouch who thinks that Apple's once fabled UI consistency has been slowly getting messier from System 7.5 onwards.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @11:51AM (#39711173)

    I would be interested in the statistics, because I definitely will never use this feature, and in fact prefer to sync with my computer.

    That is almost no-one.

    iCloud isn't really the major thing here, it just helps with the true feature that allows users to break free of the PC which is on-device updates and purchases of all content.

    Even if you don't explicitly use iCloud you can at least simply turn on an iPad and activate it without a computer, which many (perhaps most) people do.

    iCloud is really a huge boon for most people though, because it means at last the devices are actually backed up. I know a number of people with iPhones and iPads that once activated, NEVER synchronized to a PC again. That's pretty dangerous, but iCloud makes sure those people are taken care of without them having to do much at all.

    If you have an iOS device now the PC you use or the iTunes on it is already irrelevant, except as an alternative to browsing the store.

  • by swb (14022) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @11:55AM (#39711245)

    And I've found that wifi sync mostly doesn't work well. It's locked up and bombed on my iPad 1 and iPhone 3GS. I just don't bother with my daily-use 4S as GoodReader/SugarSync/Dropbox handle my "right now" file needs and ActiveSync takes care of mail/calendar/contacts.

    I'd actually prefer my backups to be local and encrypted.

    One improvement I would like would be specifying my local backup directory on a per-device basis (instead of relying on the Windows user profile clusterfuck) and the ability to say how many backup revisions I want to keep. The current system is far to opaque and makes it difficult to backup backups.

    One thing Apple could do would be to rip the store out of iTunes and make it "really" web based -- purchases could then just show up in iTunes; it's horrible to browse the store via iTunes; on an i5-2500 with 16 GB of RAM it feels like I'm browsing the web on a low-end P4 with 512 MB of RAM.

    I don't know, but the whole program kind of feels like its running some kind of interpreted code -- written for MacOS and somehow been run through a translation layer that converts MacOS system calls to Windows system calls.

  • by concealment (2447304) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @11:55AM (#39711247) Homepage Journal

    I don't want to install special applications for every device. Let me mount the device as a drive, and buy content through a (secure) web page. All other administration tasks can be done through that web page. I already have an mp3 player I like, so no loss there either. The advantage of generic technologies is that Apple doesn't need to support them. The individual consumer would be better off with fewer applications, so that they could learn those applications to a greater depth, and have more general skills to use for computing in general as a result.

  • by alen (225700) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @11:58AM (#39711289)

    itunes does things like smart playlists so you can sync only the music that you want at any time. no one in their right mind is going to search through a 30GB music collection to pick out a few songs they may want to listen to the next day and change them out on a regular basis. itunes makes this tedious task almost automatic

  • Re:Uhm, no... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DdJ (10790) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:01PM (#39711331) Homepage Journal

    It used to be split, though -- on MacOS. All sorts of different device sync functionality was covered by different software.

    Apple knows how to split it. They just don't know how to split it on Windows. They're simply not good at Windows development.

    (I do think the answer will be an evolution of iCloud. If you've got the iCloud control panel installed on a Windows box, that gives you a nicer route to sync the address book on your iPad with the one in Outlook, for example, plus photo stream, bookmark sync with IE, all sorts of stuff. But there's no great support for music, movie/tv, or podcast content that way.)

  • Thank you Slashdot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Swampash (1131503) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:02PM (#39711339)

    Thank you for telling me that iTunes is bloated. Truly news for nerds and stuff that matters.

    Gotta get those Apple ad impressions up huh?

  • Re:Uhm, no... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tharsman (1364603) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:05PM (#39711399)

    Agree. The problem with iTunes is it's one app doing the job of an entire software suite. Rename it to something more proper and distribute it as a group of apps with a centralized console, and perhaps the ability to just open up individual apps without going through the individual chunks.

    I think I would like to see more than 3 total modular apps though. I would like:

    - iOS App Store
    - iTunes Music Store
    - Movie & TV Shows
    - iBooks store
    - Mac App Store (for mac only)

    Right now it actually is strange I need to buy mac apps from it's independent app but iOS apps from iTunes. This suit consolidation may make things better.

    I may also argue to just add a Game Store that split games from other Apps. Games are the only category so specialized that it has it's own sub-category tree in iTunes right now. That should be a hint at it being in need of it's own section.

  • by DdJ (10790) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:07PM (#39711425) Homepage Journal

    It's also important for getting content from sources other than the store on there.

    An iPad on its own cannot add music from Amazon's MP3 store, or the Google Play music store, or from an actual physical audio CD, to its music library. You get that stuff in there by loading it into iTunes on a computer and doing a sync (or by loading it into iTunes on a computer and subscribing to "iTunes Match").

    And an iPad on its own has terrible podcast support, made considerably more useful via iTunes. Which is sad. There's no reason the device itself couldn't do better (automatically fetching new episodes). But today, it doesn't.

  • by Aggrajag (716041) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:07PM (#39711433)
    You can use Winamp without installing iTunes.
  • by mspohr (589790) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:08PM (#39711445)

    Why do you need a PC to "manage" an iPhone?
    My Android phone does just fine without any PC. My music, photos, Gmail, contacts and calendar are all managed nicely in the cloud (and I can back them up locally if I want). What does this PC do?
    (I have a MacBook which came with iTunes but all it ever does is pop up when I don't want it to play some music or video. It's only an annoyance and I'd like to get rid of it. When I want to play music or video, I just want to play the file, I don't want some program to "manage" it.)

  • Re:Uhm, no... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:18PM (#39711577) Homepage

    Splitting up these applications is most likely what holds this back.

    Yeah, some of it is probably the programming task, but I would guess that part of it is also marketing. Let's say, for example, that they developed a media player that was agnostic about the source of the media, and then a separate application to access the iTunes store. Now Amazon can theoretically hook their store into your media player, and you're not driving customers to your storefront anymore. In addition, you can't do things like Genius recommendations or iTunes Match as easily, since those rely on the store having access to your library.

    You have similar problems if you try to separate the iTunes Library/Media application from the iOS management, or the iTunes store from the iOS management. Or if you try to separate the iTunes App Store from the iTunes Music store from the iTunes Movie Store, then you miss out from the ability to advertise products together. Right now, if you search for "Game of Thrones", you'll probably find the TV series, the books, an iOS application or two, and maybe a soundtrack. It's certainly convenient.

    That's not to say that they can't do it or they shouldn't do it. Personally, I think they should drop Ping (I can't imagine that people use it), and they should have a separate iOS device management application. The iOS management application should allow you to backup/wipe/upgrade your phone, decide which sources of media you'd like to sync to (and give you the option of syncing to media libraries other than iTunes), etc. The iOS App Store should be separated from the media store, and on OSX the iOS App Store should integrate with the Mac App Store.

  • Podcasts... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yabos (719499) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:47PM (#39711965)
    One thing that iOS devices don't do is auto update your podcast subscriptions. iTunes is basically required for this unless you want to go to iTunes on the device itself and check for new podcasts one by one.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:52PM (#39712025)

    It's also important for getting content from sources other than the store on there.

    Yes, but that is still a tiny minority of people.

    And as you say doesn't even require synchronization with a PC, just some system that added the song to iTunes Match for that account...

    And an iPad on its own has terrible podcast support, made considerably more useful via iTunes.

    There are good podcast apps, but better built in support would be nice.

  • Easier than iTunes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @01:18PM (#39712383)

    1) download mp3 from
    2) copy to USB mass storage

    No extra software
    No heavy handed overlord control
    No platform or hardware specific requrements

    Thanks iTunes, but no thanks.

  • Re:Uhm, no... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @01:29PM (#39712577)

    Of course you don't get the choice

    FTFY. This is an Apple product.

  • Re:Uhm, no... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sosume (680416) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @01:42PM (#39712795) Journal

    I think Apple is very good at Windows development. They want to give Windows users the most painful experience possible, urging them to switch to Mac.

  • by Samalie (1016193) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @01:48PM (#39712899)

    And I don't agree.

    I'm a Windows/tiny fraction of Linux sysadmin that just made the switch from Windows to Mac for my personal laptop - mostly because all my end users were buying macs and expecting me to know how to support them (VPN, remote email, whatever)

    The right-click took me a little time to get used to on the trackpad. Having the "menu bar" for every program on the top of the screen & not the application window still causes me some minor issues. All of these issues are entirely PEBKAC - it is my lack of familiarity, not lack of knowledge, that caused me grief in these ways.

    I also dislike how iWhatever seems to want to import shit into a database every time. Just let me work with my files...I don't need an iPhoto database storing all my pics thanks. Again though, this seems to me more about the "Almighty User Experience" more than anything though. I still don't know if I like or hate the mouse-click integrated into the trackpad itself vs separate button(s).

    Beyond those minor gripes though, I find OSX extremely easy and intuitive to use. I do have a Win7 Bootcamp setup when I NEED windows, but overall, I honestly cannot imagine going back to Windows in my "personal life" - I am REALLY happy using an OS that does indeed "just work"

    Obviously non-scientific anecdote from one user to refute your one-user anecdote. But really, I doubt you're stupid, it just takes time to grow accustomed to a new/changed interface/experience. My first hour was rough too...the second less so, and approximately 3 weeks later I have developed an OSX preference. Doesn't mean I hate Windows either...as you find OSX "meh", I find Windows the same "meh" now too. I used Windows 8 in a VM for an hour, and I despise the UI, but I also know that my opinion is largely bred on unfamiliarity...once I get used to Win8, I'm sure I won't despise it anymore.

    Honestly, I hate the preaching of the zealots for ANY OS. Use what you like, and works for your needs. To hell with anyone who disagrees.

  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @02:19PM (#39713413) Homepage Journal

    I moved from an iPhone 4 running iOS 5 on AT&T to a Verizon iPhone 4S. I unpacked my phone, turned it on. It asked for my Wi Fi credentials and my username and password for ICloud. A few minutes later, all of my apps were restored with the same screen layout as my iPhone 4 with all the data in tact - including SMS messages, browser history and all of my app data. My iPhone 4S screen looks just like my iPhone 4.

    Google Market (or Play or whatever they're calling it these days) saves your list of apps. So does Amazon Appstore. SMS, history, and app data is easily backed up to the SD card.

    Of course this is with iCloud but you can do the same with the backup stored locally. Are you going to tell me that you can back up all of your Android data and restore it to another device as seamlessly?

    Yes, yes I can. Of course, when you say "another device," you're opening a can of worms you probably didn't expect:

    Switching from an AT&T locked iPhone to a Verizon locked iPhone is not restoring to "another device," it's restoring to the same device with a different IMEI. That would be more akin to, say, if my DX died and I got a new one via warranty, than actually switching devices.

    On Android all I have to do is back up my datas to the SD card, swap it to the new phone, and restore; how easy is it to restore data from an iPhone to a different (i.e., not another iPhone) device?

  • Re:Uhm, no... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tharkkun (2605613) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @02:20PM (#39713435)

    It used to be split, though -- on MacOS. All sorts of different device sync functionality was covered by different software.

    Apple knows how to split it. They just don't know how to split it on Windows. They're simply not good at Windows development.

    (I do think the answer will be an evolution of iCloud. If you've got the iCloud control panel installed on a Windows box, that gives you a nicer route to sync the address book on your iPad with the one in Outlook, for example, plus photo stream, bookmark sync with IE, all sorts of stuff. But there's no great support for music, movie/tv, or podcast content that way.)

    I don't buy that Apple can split it with MacOs but not with Windows. That's utter stupidity. Apple knows if you own a Mac and listen to music you're going to install the whole iTunes suite. While a windows user will only install the components necessary because they don't prefer Apple...otherwise they'd have a mac. So rather than break up the installer they shove it all down your throat at once. Things like Bonjour have a memory leak so I have to disable the service everytime I update iTunes. They conveniently re-enable it. I could go on, but it's fairly obvious Apple puts in the minimal amount of R&D to make their products work on Windows. I am curious if these apps are just as buggy on MacOs and that Apple fanatics see past it.

  • Re:Uhm, no... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @04:52PM (#39715663)

    The problem with iTunes is it's one app doing the job of an entire software suite. Rename it to something more proper and distribute it as a group of apps with a centralized console, and perhaps the ability to just open up individual apps without going through the individual chunks.

    I completely agree - I hate these integrated, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink apps. And yet, it seems like all the major platform developers decided to go that way years ago. When I used KDE years ago, it was the bloated crapfest called Konqueror. I switched to Gnome just as Eazel was developing Nautilus. And of course there's Windows/Internet Explorer.

    Even on OS X, iTunes is a bloated beast that's devoured all the other small, light apps that used to handle everything other than the music library itself. Maybe Apple can still claim it "just works" - but it sure takes a long time to finish doing so, nowadays.

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