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How Apple should revamp iTunes (for the better this time)

Dan Moren | June 22, 2015
One tantalizing tidbit that came up during last week's WWDC keynote was that Apple Music's arrival on the Mac would be heralded by a new version of iTunes. It's more than likely that this simply means a modest update to the existing app to bring support for the new streaming service, but dare we dream larger?

iTunes Albums view

One tantalizing tidbit that came up during last week's WWDC keynote was that Apple Music's arrival on the Mac would be heralded by a new version of iTunes. It's more than likely that this simply means a modest update to the existing app to bring support for the new streaming service, but dare we dream larger?

I say that after years of extra features, additional capabilities, and revamp after revamp it's time to tear down iTunes and rebuild it from the ground up: make it better than it was before. Better...stronger...faster.

The syncing ship

First things, first: It's time to ditch iTunes as the manner for syncing our iOS devices with our Macs. Syncing made sense back in the day when you were loading all those music tracks onto an iPod, but with Apple about to go full throttle into the world of music streaming, loading music from our computers is starting to seem antiquated. More to the point, all that syncing functionality is contributing to the bloated mass that iTunes has become.

I'm not so radical as to say we should get rid of computer-based syncing completely; plenty of people still rely on loading content from their Macs (or PCs), even though iOS devices have had the capability to be self-sufficient for a few years now. But with iCloud, the iCloud Photo Library, iTunes Match, iTunes in the Cloud, and the upcoming Apple Music, the shift towards our media and data residing in the cloud rather than via syncing has become ever more pronounced.

So, let's split out syncing. Way back in the day, OS X used to have an app called iSync, responsible for copying data like contacts and calendar appointments onto pre-smartphone cell phones and PDAs. That seems like a pretty sensible approach, rather than overburdening an app like iTunes, which--hard as it may be to believe--sometimes does get used by folks who don't even have an iOS device.

What's in store

Much as I would like to see the iTunes Store get a clean breakup from iTunes the app, I'm not holding out hope. The fact that Apple Music integrates with your existing iTunes library seems to suggest the continuation of the same sort of tight bond forged with iTunes Match.

That said, I've grown increasingly frustrated with the iTunes Store's residency in iTunes on the Mac, especially in iTunes 12. Between the icons that let you switch between different types of media--music, video, podcasts, etc.--and the tab bar that then lets you decide whether you're looking at your media or the store listings, well, it seems I pretty much always end up frustrating when I'm trying to find something.

 

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