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Flawed iTunes Stands Out Among Apple's Products 390

waderoush writes "On top of all the other features that it has crammed into iTunes, Apple this week added Ping, a Facebook-like social network for music discovery. It's all part of the company's plan to dominate the world of consumer media, but Xconomy argues that this time, Apple may have gone a bridge too far. iTunes, nearing its tenth birthday, started out merely as a program for ripping CDs, and has grown increasingly creaky and impenetrable as Apple has added more and more cruft, the article argues. The company won't have a stable base for its new media empire until it rebuilds iTunes from scratch — perhaps along the lines suggested by its other new product this week, the revamped Apple TV."
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Flawed iTunes Stands Out Among Apple's Products

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  • by Junior J. Junior III ( 192702 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:08PM (#33465594) Homepage

    The company won't have a stable base for its new media empire until it rebuilds iTunes from scratch

    Kindof like they did with Mac OS X. They should have no problem doing this with iTunes.

  • by tiedyejeremy ( 559815 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:16PM (#33465718) Homepage Journal
    I got very frustrated with the itunes interface for my 64GB touch and when getting a new phone, opted for GalaxyS rather than the iphone. maybe apple has finally "pooped in its mess kit"
  • Entirely Possible (Score:4, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff ( 680366 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:22PM (#33465806)
    Given that this is a company that blew up their entire operating system to, more or less, start from scratch, I would not be the least bit surprised if they decided to do this with iTunes if they feel that it has bloated too far off track. Say whatever you want about Apple but they are, and have long been, a company that is willing to make tough decisions if they feel it is the right one. They do not shy away from the hard choice like so many other companies do.

    Do they need to blow up iTunes and start fresh? Well, I'm sure everyone will have a different opinion on that but, if Apple starts to think that way I am certain it won't be long before they actually push the plunger and rebuild from the ashes.
  • by phoenixwade ( 997892 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:22PM (#33465808)

    I never understood why people willingly buy Macs when you get limited so severely to Apple's choices for you. Granted their computers are visually stunning, but Id rather not have to deal with quicktime, itunes, and no-flash at all, its anti-consumer.

    No, I suspect you understand perfectly well why people buy Macs, and simply don't agree with their reasons. For example, you seem to think that Apple severely limits something or other. Whereas the people who buy them don't feel limited at all, They think that the machine (iPad, Mac, music player, phone, whatever) does what they wanted it to do, which is why they keep buying them. My wife owns a Jaguar, it requires Premium gas, and she has no choice in this. But she loves that car, so it does exactly what she wants it too, and, god help me, when it comes time to replace that 12 years old beast, she's gonna want another one.

  • by NiceGeek ( 126629 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:34PM (#33466012)

    If you're aware of the limitations of the devices and decide you can't live with them, then don't buy 'em. It has nothing to do with the functionality of a Mac.

  • by kiwimate ( 458274 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:40PM (#33466108) Journal

    Good, perhaps you can help me out. My old computer died, so I had to install on a new computer.

    • I plugged in my wife's iPod, and it synched up the tunes she'd bought from their store, but not anything we'd ripped from CD. How do I do that?
    • How do I deactivate the old computer so it doesn't take up one of the five "computer licenses" Apple allows me?

    These were the main two headaches, but there are heaps more.

    Honestly...I read comments waxing lyrical about how easy and intuitive it is, and I wonder what I'm missing. Every single time I try and use iTunes, it ends up a frustrating and painful experience, because I can't figure out how to do what I want without going to the help forums. This is not how software should be, especially from Apple.

  • Re:Winamp. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onkelonkel ( 560274 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:44PM (#33466152)
    "Sometimes I wonder how many people never tried a Mac because they experienced iTunes on Windows and assumed all Apple software must be that terrible."

    Spot On. Agree 100%.

    Itunes is the one Apple software that almost all Windows users will see. It could have been an opportunity to showcase the awesomeness of Apple software. Instead it is judged to be "meh" at best and in fact from other comments here, a lot of people think it is a bloated bugfest and actually hate it. Total fail on Apple's part.
  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:50PM (#33466228)
    Um, no I really don't want to use QuickTime at all. I'd rather a few things happened:

    A) Microsoft implemented basic codec support out-of-the-box using native libraries included with Windows

    B) Apple (and most other programs) used these codecs

    C) The weird codecs could be implemented by third party programs (like VLC)

    Basic codec support should be a library in -any- commercial OS (yeah, there are reasons for not including all codecs with Ubuntu/Fedora and other OSS OSes) and programs should use it.
  • by hellfire ( 86129 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `vdalived'> on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:51PM (#33466246) Homepage

    The article makes an interesting hypothesis, but then completely fails to back them up logically. This is an empassioned article full of "cruft" and no substance.

    First let me say that Cruft is defined by Wikipedia as "computing jargon for code, data, or software of poor quality". Great, you could make a case for this, but the article completely fails to do so. The author defines cruft by the number of features... errrnnttt WRONG. You use that word... I do not think it means what you think it means. If cruft were defined by number of features, then every major piece of software that runs the internet would be full to the gills of real and true cruft. The only example of a real problem the author gives is that iTunes is in fact lacking a feature, specifically Facebook integration. I can understand that's a concern but you can't say that a piece of software is crufty for having too many features and then give an example of this as a lack of features.

    Now, if you want to make a case for cruft, you have to start pointing out things like crashes, bugs, design flaws, etc. Show me the poor quality code. By what I consider the definition of cruft, I'm sure someone can make an argument that iTunes is crufty. But the arguments of the article don't line up with the premise. Now personally I like iTunes, and haven't had a crash on it in like 5 years. There are some interface oddities I'd like to change, and iTunes 10 didn't introduce a whole lot and I think the new icon as well as the color changes within the GUI are ugly but not a major problem. I do think the media list is easier to navigate now, and syncing reports more information on the progress of the sync which I like. It's only 2 days so the jury is out on Ping, but personally I've not run into huge problems in iTunes resulting from crufty code in my history working with iTunes. i know that's anecdotal, but so are all the anti-iTunes rants here.

    The moral of the story... Adding new features does not necessarily add cruft. Adding poor quality code adds to the cruft. And if you think this is poor quality code, please, go forth and make that argument now.

  • by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:57PM (#33466328)
    Bothering your inbox with replies, eh? God forbid people engage in a discussion with you when you post something stupid in a discussion forum like Macs have "no flash at all."
  • by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @12:59PM (#33466374) Homepage Journal

    It's not that simple. Quicktime is neither backwards nor forwards compatible, nor does it allow for multiple simultaneous installations.
    If you have other programs that depend on earlier versions of Quicktime, installing iTunes will break those programs with its forced upgrade. If I ever want to view the .mqv files from my camera, I can't use the newest Quicktime because the new codecs can't handle files created with earlier versions. So what do I do then? You guessed it -- ditch iTunes, and make sure I never buy an iPod or iPhone.

    If Apple could have provided a self-contained Qt installation within iTunes that didn't install at SYSTEM level, the situation would have been very different. Then it would have been just bloat for those who don't use any Qt features. But as it is, it's directly detrimental.

  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Friday September 03, 2010 @01:01PM (#33466398) Homepage Journal
    ps: sent from my iPhone... LOL
  • Re:I love iTunes! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Idbar ( 1034346 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @01:03PM (#33466416)

    What isn't there to like about an application that wants to update itself twice a day and requires you to agree to a new EULA each time

    ... consumes my PC resources, wants to automatically install more software than the one I asked for (Safari, Quicktime), starts at least two services on windows that cannot be voluntarily stopped, neither set to manual (or that only run when I open iTunes).

    Seriously, why people use that software!?

  • Re:Cruft (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @01:04PM (#33466424) Homepage Journal

    I was one of the few people who PAID for SoundJam... it WAS that good.

    iTunes has been nothing but a continuing series of disappointments. Uglier interface, no extra features that I even remotely care about.

    It seems to be the nature of all software development as time goes on. Back in my day we counted bytes and processor cycles and knew how to handle interrupts. We wrote code to be functional, reliable and uncomplicated.

    iTunes is like the internet in many ways, clogged with unnecessary code, features nobody really needs (or can understand how to use) and straying from its core focus. What next, a javascript version as a webapp? That'd be just lovely.

  • by immaterial ( 1520413 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @01:06PM (#33466442)

    How the hell did this get modded flamebait? I didn't call anyone out nor did I say Macs are inferior without justification. I just said I don't like Apple's policies on their platform basically.

    No, you posted something factually incorrect and not surprisingly people are disagreeing with you. You have since tried to correct yourself by saying I should have said "Apple products" not Macs, but that, like the reference to "their platform" above, is still wrong. "No flash" is not an issue with "Apple products" or "their platform" - it is an issue with a certain subset (iOS devices).

    If you have an issue with those devices, great, you have a legit argument there. Don't buy them. But don't conflate the Mac with iOS devices, they're two different platforms with different sets of rules.

  • by mikestew ( 1483105 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @01:15PM (#33466534) Homepage

    but apparently people think that my own personal opinion is wrong since they keep bothering my inbox with slashdot replies.

    When you start out with statements based in ignorance, willful or otherwise ("no-flash at all"), and then try a bait-and-switch when you're called on it ("were we talking about Macs? No, no, iPhones"), expect a few replies in your inbox.

  • by yumyum ( 168683 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @01:19PM (#33466600)

    Then either A) You have a Mac or B) You have an awesome machine!

    I have both!

  • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @01:23PM (#33466650)

    Apple just HAD to be different. It was using just file names and id3 tags to sort songs in playlists, so "Unknown Artist", "Doors" and "The Doors" were all different, even though on my PC they were all under the same folder. This was annoying beyond belief, but I wanted to fix the id3 tags anyway at some point.

    There is the principle here that a song is a self-contained unit, it knows where it belongs all on its own. If you took hundred songs from my iTunes Library, copied them all into one single directory, and imported them into your iTunes Library, everything would end up exactly where it belongs.

  • Re:Cruft (Score:1, Insightful)

    by bonch ( 38532 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @01:24PM (#33466652)

    How does changing the interface make it "shoehorned?" How is having features you don't use "cruft?" You don't even explain what's horrible about it.

    Slashdotters have turned things like bloat and cruft into vague descriptions that refer to features they don't use. Just having features in the app doesn't magically make it slower and doesn't mean it's cruft. iTunes is still just a media player for music and videos, as it's been for years. Just because they add a completely optional social networking element that you have to manually enable doesn't change that.

  • by JazzyJ ( 1995 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @01:47PM (#33466980) Homepage Journal

    Or, more simply put:

    The products Apple make are the closest thing to 'appliances' you can get in the computer world.

    Most people look at PCs as appliances, like a toaster or a TV. That's why they get frustrated and confused when something doesn't work like it always did - like a toaster. Most people don't understand just how mind-bendingly complex a PC and its OS is and that it just takes one of a brazillion things to go wrong and think we look like jerks because we cannot articulate why it doesn't work anymore. Apple's computers and consumer electronics are all about simplifying the user experence. To do that, it has to be limited, consistent and work the same way every time; otherwise you get the support nightmare that Windows PCs have been for a very long time.

    Some people are fine with that... others aren't. The whole 'choice' argument against apple is sort of a red herring really. Your choices are: Apple and their appliance model or PC's and their DIY model. Pick one.


  • by HermMunster ( 972336 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @02:12PM (#33467328)

    I hope people reading the parent post realize this guy has absolutely zero understanding of intellectual property (copyright and patents). His remarks flagged as troll seem quite appropriate.

    The term freetard was conceived by a guy that maintained a website that had the intent of trying to humiliate those that wanted free choice. He is now defunct (his own choice). The rebut to freetard is proprietard. Those that think that proprietary software is the only thing of value.

    Linux and FreeBSD came into being through the hard work of others. Those individuals sat down and began working in earnest with the goal of providing everyone with choice. They were not copying the proprietary code of others or even trying to violate any patents or copyright. Their efforts reflect those of the generation of shareware authors, except they chose to give theirs away freely and to release the source code so that others could use it and improve it.

    Windows 7 though significantly better than Vista is still Vista and Vista was still XP as XP was 2000 and earlier. They were incremental changes to previous OSes. Win phone 7's future is as questionable as Zune's. Considering that this is paid software that must be licensed on a per unit basis (whereas Android doesn't have those costs/requirements) makes Win Phone 7 hardly a sure win.

    If you count that Android can be (and is being) modified by virtually every handset maker it bears fortune as it shows that Android represents the future of the smart phone and tablet market across the board. A paid closed proprietary one-size fits all Win Phone 7 isn't guaranteed success. As well, the development tools, the products, and features of Android on both the smart phone and tablet really shine making it a high mountain to climb.

    Microsoft isn't a company that can't afford to fail. If it were to fail the orbiting markets that fed it and others would still exist for some time while the competition came in to chew up chunks of the market. In other words, Microsoft's failure wouldn't be as devastating as the parent's post makes it out to be. Also, considering that the failure of Microsoft wouldn't be like a light switch where it is on one day and off the next. The competition would already have come in and chewed away at segments of the market. Nothing about Microsoft's failure could seriously hurt the computing market. There are some incredibly smart businesses out there that would step in and ease our transition.

    Apple has invested billions also in creating a good user experience. Linux has too. Large corporations have invested considerable money. To make a kernel on par with the Linux kernel by today's standard would run a company 5+ billion dollars. FOSS software also has had billions invested in it. This is from large companies such as IBM, Sun, Oracle, NASA, Red Hat to name a few.

    Many of the more modern features of Microsoft Windows came from other OSes. In fact, most of what they created comes from copying others. The latest task bar in Win 7 is a copy of the features of Apple's dock. The desktop itself is a copy of Apple's product (I know, it was copied from other companies). The transparent window borders, and other 3d affects were copied from the likes of Linux. The UAC is a copy of the Mac and Linux. There are features that Linux has that exceed anything Microsoft offers and you should expect copies of that to occur in Windows.

    The point is that *all* OSes today take considerable commitment, even in the billions of dollars. The features of any given OS and the user experience behind that are common between virtually every OS. Microsoft's paid model for Win Phone 7 and the fact that they are late players and doing nothing more than emulating the already successful Andoid and iOS foretell of slow adoption, higher costs, and a weaker user experience due to the lack of apps, the lack of refinement as is found by revising your product over the years.

    Essentially, the parent's post is a weak attempt. He demonstrates an almost complete lack of knowledge about anything of which he is speaking. His perspective is utterly one-sided and he's showing his prejudice throughout. He reminds me of a wanna be Glen Beck of /.!

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @02:25PM (#33467574) Homepage

    Yes. Ignoring the native OS libraries for a given function should be a big fat no no.

    This is especially true for stuff like video that quite often requires very low level hardware integration.

    Someone running iTunes should not have to worry about whether or not Apple properly replicated PureVideo or VDPAU hooks.

  • by Cloudgatherer ( 216427 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @02:35PM (#33467776)

    I'll briefly mention that I was gifted an iPod nano, but I was well aware of the clumsiness of iTunes and I have always avoided it like the plague after using it years ago. I found an open source python script which would allow me to just drag whatever mp3s on the device I wished and it randomized them for me. I would highly suggest it.

    Anyway, about rewrites of software. They hardly ever happen and in the vast majority of cases they do not work out for the better. OS X was an exception, but lets face it, OS 9 was a piece of absolute crap compared to other modern day operating systems and Apple has an entire team devoted to their OS which was aware of this. They even saved themselves some work by using some OSS *nix code (the guts of OS X runs on a BSD variant and a Mach kernel, but my memory is fuzzy).

    That brings me to my over-arching theme, such that, a rewrite of a "successful" application is a very difficult sell. OS 9 was not what anyone would call successful. iTunes could be described as successful given its usage. Sure, those of us here are going to scoff at it, I think we expect more, but until Apple sees some sort of sales hit or massive negative backlash about it, the management will likely stay the course.

    This brings me to my next point, the rewrite of any application will likely have an equivalent and/or reduced feature set. In some cases that is good (for cleaner, crisper software), however if you take this proposal to non-tech-savvy management, they will interpret the request along the lines of: spend X man years, Y million dollars, and end up with the same product that only works slightly better. The obvious follow up question from management then comes in: "well, can we fix what we have for cheaper?" In doing the trade-off analysis, nearly any sane management will take the significantly reduced cost for a minor improvement in a trouble feature as opposed to a rewrite.

    And to go to the car analogy, say you are management. Your car currently makes you a lot of money because people use it, but they complain about how old/clunky it is. To completely re-invigorate your car, the mechanic wants $25K to completely re-tune/paint/upholster/everything your vehicle. The end result will be basically the exact same car, just in mint condition. OR you think to yourself, you can do the bare minimum maintenance, and take that 25K and buy a new car, and have two cars that can make money. Even if your customers simply use the new car over the old one, at least now you can buy a different car from the old one and attract more customers! Management generally prefers the latter option here, while consumers might prefer the former. Then again, its management's money, hence the tough sell.

    So the key here is, if you were someone who could talk to the Apple Management, how could you make a convincing enough case to do a rewrite of iTunes such that the ROI (return on investment) is worth it for management? A true answer to that takes more than just a /. post.

  • by Americano ( 920576 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @03:05PM (#33468268)

    The "clueless sucker" argument is enough to explain why someone would buy them the first time.

    It's not enough to explain why they *keep* buying apple products, and why Apple products have one of the better customer satisfaction ratings in the industry.

    If you buy something and feel that you've been bait-and-switched and your new device absolutely doesn't live up to the marketing hype, you're not going to tell people that you "love" your new purchase, and plan to buy another.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 03, 2010 @03:11PM (#33468380)

    It's "solutions" like this that are exactly why I use a Mac. A giant paragraph of what it won't do, with bunches of little work-arounds you had to discover along the way? No thanks. You can spend all weekend arm wrestling your media into a home-brew solution, I'll just rip/download/sync/etc. and move one.

    iTunes is far from perfect, but goodness, I never want to put up with the hot mess you just described.

    Likewise, that's what gets me excited about the new Apple TV: plug it in, start using it. Compare that to the past few years of XBMC hacks and mythical HTPC solutions I've put my wife through. From my point-of-view, the future just got a lot brighter.

  • by abulafia ( 7826 ) on Friday September 03, 2010 @08:47PM (#33471624)

    iTunes is a decent operating system, but it really needs a good MP3 player.

    Seriously, I love OSX and use two macs, I'm relatively happy with my iPhone (I like it, modulo ATT, and even that has gotten better), but iTunes is a bucket of spit.

    I get the strategy. It just sucks for my usage model.

    Things I think are crappy:

    • Phone/pod sync should be transparent when plugged in, without launching iTunes. If installing apps/upgrading IOS/whatever absolutely has to be in iTunes, then only require me to futz with it when I'm installing an app or upgrading. There's no sane reason to make me launch a media player to back up my phone.
    • A small, lightweight player for music, along the lines of the old Winamp, is the right UI for music. Perhaps the full UI for ripping/geeking out on adding composer information/rating songs/whatever makes sense, but a simple, unobtrusive controller for music, ideally one with just keyboard controls as an option, would be ideal. The "mini-controller" isn't bad, but loading all of iTunes to get it is annoying.
    • I get that pushing the store is important to Apple. Although I've never bought music from it, I have bought phone apps. All fine. But the hooks creeping in throughout the app are becoming annoying.
    • I refuse to use Facebook, and Ping is even less useful to me. Maybe it is an age thing, but I really couldn't care less about what music people I know are buying, and find the idea of sharing that info creepy and invasive. Not for me. It is typical of the creeping intrusiveness that the "hide" buttons to collapse left-hand categories work for the silly "genius" function and playlists, but not for the store and Ping - gotta keep that in your face.

    One Thing that would make it nicer, and aren't just fixing crappy bloat, would include more flexible volume spanning for libraries. I have a lot of music - it took a long time, but I've ripped my entire collection, which I've accumulated over ~20 years. I don't want or ever need 260G of music on my laptop. I keep a large amount of it on a network drive and put up with iTunes freaking out when it discovers a track is on a drive that isn't connected, but the whole thing is annoying, and keeping it working it needlessly tedious, especially for an Apple product.

    Sorry for the rant - this isn't so much a reply to you anymore - I started this out just to get the refurbished emacs quip out, and it turned into this. I just find it remarkable that Apple has created such a monstrosity that it central to their ongoing strategy. They've created real duds before, but iTunes is... just a mess. They usually eventually get it right, but I'm wondering on this one. I think His Steveness actually likes how fucked up iTunes is.

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