The Unhappy Tale of How iTunes Went from Brilliance to Debacle

The Particle Debris article of the week is from William Gallagher at AppleInsider.

The app that made it so easy to play music on your Mac that it transformed the entire music industry is going away, but the legacy lives on. As Apple scraps the omnibus iTunes app and breaks it up into multiple parts, AppleInsider looks at what went so right—and then so wrong.

It just goes to show that even a smart, hip company like Apple can become mired in its own agenda. iTunes went from being an excellent personal music jukebox for those who ripped their own CDs to an unfathomable money maker for Apple. And that’s when the notion that it should be retained as is became fixated. It got so bad, I had to write: “iTunes 12 is Apple’s Worst Software Ever, Should Be Withdrawn.

Part of the problem was that iTunes boiled our collective frogs. We experienced users (kinda) got used to its craziness. But Apple likes to brag that a significant percentage of new Mac buyers are first-time Mac users. So why wasn’t that taken into account? Author Gallagher goes on to punctuate Apple’s stubborn fixation (or internal issues).

It’s just that both Apple and those of us who grew up alongside iTunes’s expansion, could so very easily fail to see what was obvious to newcomers. If you came in cold to iTunes in 2015, say, it was a phenomenally confusing app.

Only after howls of complaints from users and journalists did Apple think about fixing the problem, and even then, I surmise, only when Catalyst started to crystalize.

This is a fun, interesting read.

Soon it’ll be time to see if Apple has redeemed itself in Catalina. Initial signs are not encouraging. In Jason Snell’s look at the public beta, he notes:

As someone who uses iTunes every day to listen to music, I’m disappointed to report that some features I use have failed to make the transition to Music. The venerable Column Browser in the Songs view, which was once the primary way users interacted with iTunes, seems to be gone.

Apple may have some more work to do to before we can, once again, joyfully sing the praises of Apple’s Music app.

More News Debris

• I think just about everyone agrees that iPadOS is a great idea—and long overdue. Ben Sin at Forbes sizes it up. “Apple’s iPadOS Is A Game-Changing Software Update.

• It’s a bit of a puzzle why Apple hasn’t provided a camera in the Apple Watch. Perhaps it’s because if a stranger points an iPhone at you in a certain way, you know you’re being photographed. But an Apple Watch could do the same thing much more surreptitiously, and Apple may have been sensitive to that. Or perhaps there just wasn’t enough room inside the watch. In any case, there maybe a camera coming in Series 5. “Apple Watch Series 5: Patent Images Show That There May Be a Camera Coming.

• The impact of Jony Ive leaving Apple is hard to diagnose. His contribuions have been enormous. But Ben Lovejoy at 9too5Mac has a favorable take: “Jony Ive leaving won’t doom Apple, and may even be a positive.” And who knows, perhaps it’s time for the next generation. AppleInsider: Who are Alan Dye and Evans Hankey, the design leads replacing Jony Ive?

TheConversation tells us how to detect deepfakes. “Detecting deepfakes by looking closely reveals a way to protect against them.” Nowadays, where you get your news really matters. Just any video won’t do.  Apple is making its own notable contribution.

The streaming consolidation continues. The Los Angeles Times reports: “NBC is expected to take Netflix favorite ‘The Office’ to its new streaming service.” This will go on, and on, and on.

• Finally, here’s a heads up on a sneaky new malware. “OSX/CrescentCore: Mac malware designed to evade antivirus.” But you deleted Adobe Flash Player from your Mac years ago.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article(s) of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

4 thoughts on “The Unhappy Tale of How iTunes Went from Brilliance to Debacle

  • Apple should implement resume playback. What I mean is that you are listening a very long playlist of thousands of songs, quit iTunes, reboot the Mac or shut down the Mac.

    The next time that you open iTunes it starts from song number one again, but you want it to resume from the last song played (say, song number 1456 or whatever).

    For me that is the most essential feature missing in iTunes, and it was available in SoundJam MP back in 2001, from where iTunes was developed.

  • iTunes as a music library organizer-player peaked at v10.7. After that, the capabilities went downhill. They took away the ability to bring up two song lists simultaneously (side-by-side) so you could edit, drag’n drop etc between them. I mean come on. The ability to edit two documents side-by-side on a computer screen is like Software 101.

    Synching iBooks is a nightmare between a Mac and an iPad. You’d think synching would take the most recent version of a pdf document and synching it to the device with the older version. Nope. The synching process will take the Mac version with cryptic titles (the original meaningless titles from a web download) and over write the title names you assigned on the iPad.

    If they don’t bring back the column music library browser in the new iTunes, it’ll be one of the dumbest decisions ever by Apple.

    1. Ive did good work in the past. the original and lamp iMacs for example. He played a major part in the resurgence of Apple. But I really don’t think he’s been as good without Jobs keeping him in line. Part of art is using the limitations to reach farther. Without Jobs there to place limitations, to keep him down to earth you ended up with incredibly flat keyboards that were uncomfortable to type on. You ended up with flat grey, skuimorphism free interfaces that were difficult to navigate. With Ive departing I hope that the next generation can take what they learned and return to amazing designs that will wow us.

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