iApps: The Software Suite Apple Should Create


Once upon a time, iTunes did exactly what it sounded like it should do: play music. It was the digital jukebox for your mac, Rip, Mix, Burn, remember that?

Looking at the sidebar in iTunes now, I’ve got Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, iTunes U, Audiobooks, Applications, and Radio, and that’s just the main library. Next is the iTunes Store and a “Purchased” smart list, the Genius feature, iTunes DJ and (finally) my custom Smart Playlists. That’s a lot to pack into one application, especially considering that many of the features have nothing to do with each other. There are very few times when I’m wanting to watch a movie that I care to look through my music collection. Music and video are two different functions, and in my opinion, deserve two different apps.

Actually, I’d like to see Apple release an entire “iApps Suite,” separating out audio, video, and applications. Strip Movies and TV Shows out of iTunes and integrate them into a new “iVideo” app, or something similarly named. Hide the video content from the iTunes store in iTunes and create a link for an iVideo store inside the new video app.

Similarly, I’d like to see Apple break out the App Store into it’s own dedicated application. Leave the functionality exactly as it is now and simply move it into its own app. There are many times that I’ve got iTunes open, most of the time just to listen to music, and have no interest whatsoever in my collection of apps.

Maybe my desire for Apple to break apart iTunes is because of my background in Unix, and the Unix philosophy for writing applications that “do one thing, and do it very well.” Or, maybe it’s because the direction iTunes has taken doesn’t seem very “Mac like.” Take the bundled applications for example. Mail, iCal, and Address Book are very often lumped together in the same app. Thunderbird (with the lightning extension) does this, as do Outlook and Lotus Notes. Apple sees sending and receiving mail, calendaring, and storing information about contacts as three separate functions, and wrote three separate apps to handle it. The iLife suite is another great example of separating applications that do different things. iPhoto ties into iWeb, Garageband, iMovie, and iDVD, but they are still separate apps for separate purposes.

I thought for a while that audio, video, and apps were all lumped together in iTunes to make it easier to sync to iPods and iPhones. But, iCal, Address Book, and iPhoto have no problem syncing their data. iPhoto will, by default, open when you plug-in an iPod touch or an iPhone, but Address Book and iCal sync silently, if configured to do so in iTunes. If iTunes were to be separated into different apps, perhaps the iSync utilities role could be expanded to handle what is synced where. That almost sounds like the job of a system preference to me.

Now I think that the three functions of iTunes are tied together because of the iTunes store. Since Apple used the same distribution model that had been successful with music for movies and TV shows, adding the functionality to iTunes and the iTunes Store offered the path of least resistance. Similarly, when it needed to build another store for applications, Apple built it on top of what was already successful.

I don’t see Apple changing directions with iTunes any time soon. If it were to create three apps out of the one iTunes, it would have to create them for Windows as well. I don’t have access to the source code, but knowing what I do about programming and development, I can’t imagine that would be an easy task. Perhaps this is a third-party opportunity for some ambitious indie devs out there? Or, maybe, just maybe, if we get the right people’s attention, a conversation might start that leads to some real change.