The iTunes App is Too Big and Needs to Fail

It's no secret that customers and observers are greatly annoyed with the current state of the iTunes app on the Mac. It's become bloated, confusing, and it certainly Apple's worst piece of software. Daily, there are pleas on the internet to fix it. Apple may have other ideas.

There are several problems here.

  1. There's a definite movement by Apple's customers away from purchasing and towards streaming music. While the article facts may be in question, you can see for yourself the projected trend in music downloads.
  2. Managing and backing up a music library in itself is a chore. iTunes bugs and opacity into its workings make things worse.
  3. The iTunes code base is massive, complex and hard to factor (break into multiple, logical apps) without losing the connection to the iTunes store. That's something that sustains a goodly revenue stream for Apple.
  4. It probably doesn't make sense to Apple management to commit significant resources to fix a problem when it's more obvious to just let the problem go away on its own.

Of course there are many millions of customers who enjoy collecting and managing a personal library of music and they're still generating significant revenue for Apple. They'll complain bitterly if Apple were to act abruptly, but shrug and accept if Apple still supports iTunes in its current form with minor tweaks. See: "No, Apple isn’t Killing Off iTunes Music Sales."

What we've seen in the past from Apple is that definitive action is seldom taken. The iPod classic lingered on for years. We still have iPod touch, if you can find it on Apple's site. The Apple Airport utility got simpler and dumber, and there was never a "Pro" version for the experts to make up for that. Apple tends to let things drift and let the market sort things out rather than try to radically change the rules.

Left to Linger

So it seems to me that what's not likely is a radical rewrite and factoring of iTunes, as John Kheit suggests: "Mr. Cook, Tear Down That App." Rather, the iTunes app on the Mac will likely be left to linger for those people who still want to buy, own and back up music. The energy and focus will be in Apple Music and mobility.

Eventually, what's likely to happen is that customers will just give up and the technology surrounding buying and managing a music library will pass away into the dustbins of history. Apple probably doesn't want to take any action that would prevent that from happening. But neither does it want to offend millions of customers who have a philosophy and a habit.

iTunes got too big, too bloated, too full of agenda, too hard to fix. After years of complaints, there are no signs that a major, elegant rewrite that many have longed for is coming. It's probably better to let it limp along until no one cares anymore. Or the Next Big Thing replaces it altogether—like artificial intelligence (AI) agents that can better manage a music (or any) library held in Apple's cloud.

Fixing iTunes in the proper sense that many have outlined may be beyond even Apple's powers. Or conflict with long-range plans that don't require a major rewrite. As NASA's Gene Kranz would never have said, in this case, slow failure is an option.