The wait is finally over. Windows users now can get their mitts on the newly released iTunes 4.1 and with it the iTunes Music Store. Hell may have frozen over, as Steve Jobs put it, but the reactions of Windows users to this Apple product might just have driven it down near absolute zero. What could do such a thing? TMO raided the dorms of the University of Nebraska - Lincoln to dig up opinions, and it seems the Windows users like it. A lot.
Itis been a long road to get to this point for the folks in Cupertino. Appleis first major software release for Windows was the maligned and much-criticized QuickTime 4. "Apple?s products for Windows, before iTunes, have been notoriously horrible," said senior computer science major Travis Spomer.? "QuickTime is one of the worst pieces of commercial software for Windows, even after considerable improvement over the past couple of years." Ask around and youill get similar views. Most people seldom launch QuickTime for anything other than the movie trailers on the Apple Web site.
As yesterday approached, the anticipation was understandably mixed. Many had no idea it was coming, and those that did were cautiously optimistic. They were excited on one hand, but afraid it could end up a disaster like QuickTime was originally. But did Apple come through this time? "The exceptional quality of iTunes came as quite a surprise after having been burned so much by Apple software for Windows in the past," stated Spomer. Business major Brian Knapp is also impressed: "iTunes makes me want to listen to music and buy music again."
While on the Macintosh there are few popular music players other than iTunes, there are a series of well-established options on Windows. These include the Microsoft beast Windows Media Player, the very popular Winamp (versions 2 and 3), Music Match Jukebox, RealONE, and more. One of the biggest challenges for Apple is to prove iTunes has an advantage over these existing forces. In that area, the results are a bit mixed. "iTunes and Windows Media Player share a lot of the same features, but I like the look and style of iTunes more than Media player," said sophomore meteorology major David Teetzen. Managment information systems major Johnny McCarthy agrees: "I used Winamp before I switched to iTunes.? Pretty sure Iim going to switch to iTunes, at least for now.? I like the interface a lot better and it seems much easier to reach different options (especially compred to Winamp 3.x).? The streaming of othersi songs across the network is a big plus as well."
Travis Spomer, on the other hand, is sticking with Winamp 2. "I want a fast, customizable media player that lets me organize my music the way I want to, and iTunes doesn?t fit the bill. If I wanted an integrated media suite, though, I?d strongly consider using iTunes over Windows Media Player in their current states." Others echoed these sentiments, but were also quick to praise the Apple music player. It seems that the decision to use one over the other does not lie directly with the qualities of the applications, but more in how a user wants their player to function. There is a fundamental difference in design philosophies between iTunes and Winamp.
The iTunes Music Store is also garnering praise from Windows users who want an easy solution for purchasing music. "When I downloaded iTunes, I had no intention of using the Music Store, but as soon I opened the program, I went in and checked it out," Teetzen said. "I quickly opened an account so if I saw a song I wanted, I could fetch it. I find it amazingly simple."
"In a matter of minutes I had my first album," exclaimed Knapp. "It is the best way Iive found to legally download music on the internet."
On the other side of the iTMS coin there are those that donit feel itis there quite yet. "I will not consider an online music store that does not offer songs with lossless compression," stated Spomer.? "I have not been impressed with the quality of AAC compression in the past, and definitely prefer Windows Media Audio 9, which is offered by competing music stores." Several others echoed his sentiments, stating that they would jump on the bandwagon is FLAC files or other similar lossless compression methods were used.
Did yesterdayis events change the opinion on Appleis Windows software for Wintel users? "Certainly," said Spomer.? "Before today, primarily because of their extremely poor quality [on Windows], I would never have considered purchasing any Apple products in my wildest dreams.? iTunes has completely turned around my opinion of Apple?s ability to write quality software [for Windows] that I would be interested in using."
"As far as online music services go, iTunes seems to be the overall champion," said McCarthy.
Apple had many hurdles to jump with the release of iTunes for Windows. The biggest of them all was to overcome the perceived quality issues with Apple products that began with QuickTime. From the initial reactions, the company seems to have succeeded. Even though not everyone is going to use or like iTunes, this fundamental change in opinion on Apple software for Windows gives them more and more of a foothold from which to gain more switchers ? to the jukebox, iPods, or even all the way over to Macs. No matter how you slice it, iTunes and the iTMS for Windows appears to be a hit.
Summing up the general attitude of the people we spoke to, Brian Knapp declared with a smile on his face, "Iim switching to iTunes."