If you ask someone what has made Apple so successful in the first decade of this century, you may get a lot of responses saying the iPhone. That may be true, but, the iPhone is only part of the story. The predecessor of it all, are iTunes and the iPod. Sure, Apple was not the first IT company to enter the music market. Sony began a long time ago with the Walkman along with many others. One could argue Apple’s doings have had a bigger impact on the way people get their music than any other company in the world. You can not talk about Apple and music without mentioning iTunes
iTunes – A Brief History
iTunes the application is much more than music today. Originally it was Apple’s way to deliver music to the people.
Rewind back to the Year 2000. Sydney had just hosted the Olympic games. The whole Y2K issue turned out to be a hoax. The new millennium gave the world a new hope. At this time a thing called Napster existed which basically hosted songs on it’s servers so people could download them. Napster offered these for free and often prior to their release dates. Many artists and record companies were unhappy about this which resulted in a legal action being taken against Napster. In the end, Napster lost and was shut down.
At this time, one of the main applications being used in OS 8/OS 9 was SoundJam MP published by Casady & Greene. SoundJam MP was a basic application to list all of your songs on your hard drive and play them. I remember using it back in those days. It was a really useful app, although, I was not into music back then as much as I am now. But, I loved the app, and it got a lot of use by me.
It seems that after the whole Napster debacle and Steve Jobs becoming full time CEO again, the time was ripe for a new opportunity to make money by delivering music. After a failed attempt by Apple to talk to Panic Inc., the developers of another competing software Audion, Apple ended up purchasing the rights to the SoundJam software. The three developers of SoundJam continued their work on the application for Apple which was released as iTunes 1.0 on Jan. 9, 2001. This was one of Apples big hopes at the time. If iTunes was a failure I don’t think Apple would have been the success it is today. But, as we all know now, iTunes was a raging success and today, it’s probably one of the most well known applications in the world.
iTunes – How It Evolved
iTunes did not become the amazing (in my opinion) application it is overnight. Here is a quick point by point version wrap of the major things that went into iTunes over the years.
Version 1 – Jan. 9, 2001
The cost was free compared to the old SoundJam MP that cost $40.
Version 2 – Oct. 23, 2001
1 Million downloads
Connectivity for the newly released iPod
CD burn time down
MP3 CD burning
A 10-band equalizer
Version 3 – July 17, 2002
Sound check for consistent volume playback
Support for Audible audiobooks and Smart Playlists
Version 4 – April 28, 2003
Most importantly, the iTunes music store. Apple finally made purchasing digital music on your Mac (and shortly thereafter, your Windows PC) a smooth and wonderful experience. This was, and still is, unparalleled in the industry. In the first 4 months, 10 million songs were downloaded. This was the first way Apple showed how strong it was to become in digital media delivery. A success no other company has yet to emulate.
Version 5 – Sept. 7, 2005
Lasting only 5 weeks and not well received by the public.
Was the first numbered upgrade that didn’t come with a new colour for the music note in its icon.
New skin that had a love/hate relationship with the public
Version 6 – Oct. 12, 2005
TV downloads available at the itunes store
Version 7 – Sept. 12, 2006
Two new revolutionary views for navigating through music on itunes
And a total redesign of the interface
Version 8 – Sept. 9, 2008
The Genius feature (a way to let iTunes make Smart Playlists for you)
Party Shuffle renamed to iTunes DJ
Version 9 – Sept. 9, 2009
iTunes In The Future
What does the future hold for iTunes? The current buzz is a cloud like service which will push your music to all of your internet connected devices. Kind of like what happens today with email and the Mail application. But, it’ll happen with music and iTunes.
There is rumoured to be a browser based service for iTunes allowing access and streaming of the music you already own at home. Why would you want to do this? Yes, it will eat up bandwidth, but if you need a certain song when you are out and you don’t have it on your friends computer or your iPhone or whatever it’s a good way to get the song and listen to it. There might even be an option to download the song. You could even have a MobileMe online site to store for songs and just download the ones you want from that on the go. A lot of possibilities for getting just the song you want, when you want it. Sure it’ll work for Apps, movies and other things downloaded from iTunes too.
Another thing I think would be very good for iTunes is using the Mac’s internal camera. Music and a camera? A very strange combination. But I have found an app that blends the 2 together brilliantly.
This software does one of the few things iTunes can not do. A feature I’d really like to see in iTunes one day. Delicious Library is basically a music organisation app. You can list all of the CDs, DVDs and Books you own and organise then by a number of different categories which include name, artist, date (available in iTunes) and also by catalogue/isbn number, autographed or not, with album/book cover art or not (things iTunes can not currently do) and more.
The big feature of this application is the ability to use the Mac’s camera to scan in the barcode of the book/CD/DVD you own and with one scan all of the info for the product (including cover art) is right there for you and automatically put in the right place in your list. Sure, it’s only a little thing but for those of you who have a large collection of physical CDs or DVDs or books, this saves many hours organising and listing them all. When your library gets too large to remember everything you own, it’s useful to ehlp prevent purchasing the same book/music/movie twice. Also, it’s nice to know if you’re ever robbed, then your insurance company knows what to replace.
We all know Apple prefers digital content over the hard physical media. But I think features like these (from Delicious Library) should make iTunes even better. And you would be able to have your digital downloaded content in the same or separate lists to your store bought physical media. Just one way that iTunes could be improved in my opinion.
iTunes and Live Music
There is a lot of sites that focus on live music. In Australia there is the JJJ live music site http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/live/. There are a whole load of other ones around the world too. Currently you can search iTunes Store via artist or album or what’s hot or new. I think another area of improvement that iTunes could make would be having live music and a way to search for live music online. With the ever increasing busy lives people have these days, going out to live music to experience it in person is just not always possible. Sure, hearing live music through headphones is not the same as in person. But a live music section on iTunes would only improve the service out of sight.
iTunes – The Final Word
I don’t know to any degree of certainty where iTunes will go in the future, or where Apple will take music. Will they take their music applications (Garage Band, Logic Express and Logic Pro) and improve them out of sight? Will they take iTunes and make it even more awesome than it already is? I don’t even think Apple knows this yet. All we know is a lot of people enjoy iTunes today and we hope a lot more will enjoy it in the future also.
Some references in this article made from: