So what should Apple do with iTunes and Beats Music? Here are five suggestions

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Relax: Apple didn’t just spend $3 billion on Beats, only to shut down the Beats Music streaming service soon after. Instead, it’s likely that the company is working on integrating the service with some of its other music properties in what could be a long-overdue refresh of iTunes.

It sounds like we will have to wait at least until next spring before we know what [company]Apple[/company] is actually up to — which leaves us plenty of time to talk about what the company should be doing. I’ve got a few ideas; five, to be exact:

1. Break up iTunes

iTunes, the Mac app, started as an audio player capable of syncing your songs with your iPod, but it has since become a monster of an app that tries to do everything, all the time, and that can get pretty confusing. It’s a music player that for some reason also backs up your iPad apps, syncs your contacts and bugs you to finally update your iPhone’s operating system. All of these features made sense at one point or another, but have since turned iTunes into a prime example of bloatware.

iTunes for OS X is a media player. So why does it let you buy apps for your iOS devices?

iTunes for OS X is a media player. So why does it let you buy apps for your iOS devices?

The solution for Apple is to break up iTunes into a music player and an app capable of managing your devices, plus possibly other apps or web apps for other types of media. This wouldn’t just make things simpler, but also achieve a lot more consistency across devices. Syncing music via USB could be part of the media player, but is becoming less important as more people download their music directly from Apple’s servers, or even stream songs. The same goes for the store: Music purchasing capabilities should remain part of iTunes, the App Store, movies and TV shows, iTunes U and books should be spun out.

2. Embrace the web

Speaking of iTunes: It’s great to have dedicated media consumption and buying apps on your mobile devices, but on the desktop, all of this should really be available on the web as well. There is no reason why I can’t make my purchases on the web, especially if I end up consuming them on other devices anyway.

Google Play lets you buy media on the web. So why doesn't iTunes?

Google Play lets you buy media on the web. So why doesn’t iTunes?

Also, no more “View in iTunes” buttons, please. [company]Google[/company] has had some challenges with keeping all of its stores straight as well (think Chrome web store vs. Play store), but it got the web approach right with Google Play, and Apple could learn a thing or two from Google’s approach.

3. Put streaming and big pictures front and center

The world is moving from paid downloads to all-you-can-eat subscriptions and radio-like services, and iTunes should reflect this by putting streaming front and center. Instead of splitting up the app into a store where you can only buy and manage your music and a library view where you can listen to it, iTunes should let users play straight from the catalog. Give users access to all tracks if they pay for the full subscription tier, highlight the tracks they already own and give them a chance to fill the gaps if they just want to purchase individual albums or songs.

iTunes still makes music look like a spreadsheet.

iTunes still makes music look like a spreadsheet.

This integration of library and catalog should go along with a visual refresh that moves away from square album art and the Excel-like lists of music that still dominate much of the iTunes experience to big pictures and a much richer visual experience. And before people start to complain loudly: Yes, there could always be a classic or minimal mode, to be enabled in the comments if you really like your music to look like a spreadsheet.

4. Kill the Genius, take radio everywhere

Apple has taken baby steps towards making iTunes more potent over the years by introducing additional features, but it has always treated them like add-ons. In some cases, that was a good choice — can you imagine if Ping had become a core component of your iTunes experience? But in others, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Take Genius, the recommendation engine capable of generating “smart” mixes from your library and suggesting which music you should buy from the iTunes store. Right now, Genius is still treated as a separate feature, complete with a dedicated tab within the iTunes mobile app and hard-to-find entries in the desktop app. Apple should get rid of all these extra tabs, and instead integrate recommendations right into the library.

iTunes treats radio like a separate beast, but it should let you easily create stations right from within its store.

iTunes treats radio like a separate beast, but it should let you easily create stations right from within its store.

The same goes for iTunes Radio, which currently is a pretty horrible experience. Instead of putting it into yet another tab, iTunes users should be able to launch a radio station from anywhere. Browse the library, stumble across an artist or genre you like, and start a radio station with the click of a button.

5. Kill the Beats brand — and the iTunes brand, too

On iOS, Apple simply calls its music app Music. It should do the same on the desktop.

On iOS, Apple simply calls its music app Music. It should do the same on the desktop.

It’s not a big surprise that Apple is going to get rid of the [company]Beats[/company] brand, at least when it comes to digital music. [company]Beats Music[/company] just hasn’t had enough customers, or even exposure, to make it a valuable brand for Apple. However, I think the company should go one step further and kill the iTunes brand as well.

A completely rebuilt media player that focuses on subscription music and outsources apps and device management to other apps shouldn’t have to live with the iTunes legacy. Instead, it’s time that Apple did what it’s been doing on iOS devices for some time: simply call the app Music. It would be consistent with the new Apple, a company that chose to call its watch just that — Apple Watch — and it would show that Apple is ready to take digital music to the next step.

9 Comments

April

I got off the iPhone train a long time ago. Give me an Android Galaxy any day. Love Galaxy s5, iphone is the “wingtops with shorts” of the cell phone world.

Brian

Apple Watch is Apple Watch because iWatch was already taken. A federal registration exists which pre-dates the Apple product by several years. This is likely the only reason.

brownieand45sfan

This is true: “There is no reason why I can’t make my purchases on the web, especially if I end up consuming them on other devices anyway.” You should be able to purchase any music you want, anyplace, anytime, and be able to access that purchase from any device. After all you bought it, and did not steal it. That is the least they can do for you.

What is lacking however is a way of allowing the other devices to differentiate between purchases made through, e.g., Apple (i.e. “Apple certifies that this user bought this track”) and tracks that were *not* legally purchased. If you did not buy them from Apple, then where did you buy them? The number of places to buy digital downloads you could can count on your fingers. Every single one of these places has precise lists of which user bought what. You logged into an account, – right,? – when you made your music purchase. You did not send them cash anonymously, right?

In sum: Why should other devices allow tracks to be used without checking with Apple (and Google, Amazon, etc.) to see if the user bought the track, when the database is already there and such a check can happen in a millisecond? Conversely, why should people continue to purchase tracks if the music industry itself does not bother to require, in its music licensing, that these “devices” do this millisecond check?

This may be where Apple is going in their next metamorphosis because they have at least one patent in this area.

Peter

[…] simply call the app Music.

Does anybody else remember Microsoft Word, Microsoft Chart, Microsoft Mail, and the like?

Now it’s Microsoft that comes up with the cute names and Apple that goes for the plain jane.

dafa

This is a good article. I bet you Apple is (and has been) working on a new “Music app” for a while now and will release it when it is ready. Apple spends a very long time building its products, so I think these 5 points will all be addressed when the product is released.

Walt Mackinley

Me personally, I like having everything all in one. Genius and Radio could be combined into a more fully-featured Radio and Personal Radio of sorts, and purchasing should be allowed from the website I agree – but streaming? It’s polarizing and it’s a waste of money. I don’t want it pushed front and center; it can be integrated better perhaps, but conveniently stay out of my way.

jjj

Apple has one core value, greed.
They don’t do what makes sense for the user ,they do all they can to sell what they want, to lock the users in , to bleed them dry.
You want a web client but that’s most likely because you have no clue that they don’t even have an Android client. That’s the first thing anyone would do but not Apple since the goal is not a better product.
When you think Apple, think how to extort more money from the user, don’t think what makes sense, that’s not how they roll.
Yes you can argue that the better product would win but Apple wouldn’t agree. The product is the iphone ,everything else are chains.

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