It’s time for iTunes to die, even though it was key to Apple’s early success

4
    t

  • At its 2019 Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple announced that iTunes as we know it will no longer exist.
  • t

  • iTunes will be replaced by Apple Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV apps.
  • t

  • In retrospect, iTunes was one of the most important products Apple ever made, acting as a Trojan horse into the Windows customer base.
  • t

  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Craig Federighi: Now when you plug in your phone, this is what you see: nothing.

Matt Stuart: Yes, Apple is killing iTunes. But in retrospect, it’s one of the most important products Apple ever made. This has been a very long time coming. iTunes has been extremely bloated for a while now, and instead of iTunes, Apple is now gonna have Apple Music, Podcasts, and Apple TV. Separate apps for different kinds of media, which makes total sense.

iTunes was originally only for music. When Apple released it, it was actually built on this other application called SoundJam that Apple had purchased, and they retooled it and turned it into iTunes. And so it was just kinda used for ripping CDs and storing your MP3s. Remember, this was the early aughts, so MP3s were huge, and this was just kind of a way to manage everything.

When Apple releases the iPod, they add the iPod support to iTunes so that you use iTunes to transfer all your music to the iPod, and that’s how you manage your iPod library. In early 2003, they launch the iTunes Music Store. This is huge because up until now, you didn’t really have a digital music store. But it’s also a big experiment. It was kind of a way for the labels to see, will people buy music? The record labels are able to target Mac users, which at this time are about 1 to 2 percent of the computer-having population, and see if they will actually purchase digital music. You’re not getting a physical CD. You’re just getting files on your computer. And the experiment is a huge success.

So about six months later, you see iTunes come to Windows, which gives Apple two things: the iTunes Store on Windows PCs, and any Windows user can finally get an iPod because up until now, they had no way to manage their library if they were to get one. A couple of years later, Apple adds photo and video support to the iPod, which means that they have to add videos to the iTunes Store. So now you can get your music, your TV shows, and movies from iTunes. And this is how you’re still managing your iPod. So it’s getting a little more bloated, but it still makes sense because you can get all these things onto your iPod, so this is a single application to basically manage your iPod. 2007, Apple launches the iPhone, which is also managed in iTunes, and they still use iTunes to manage your iPhone library. It still makes sense for it to be iTunes, but you’re still using one application for all these different forms of media.

The problems really start to come the next year when they add the App Store to the iPhone, and you have to access the App Store in iTunes. So now you’re using iTunes for music, TV shows, movies, and apps on your iPhone. Later on, they add podcast and book support to iTunes, so now you’re using it for those things in addition to everything else. As time goes on, the iPhone becomes more and more important to Apple, and each thing becomes its own separate app. You have Apple Music. You have the books. You have the podcasts on the phone. But on your computer, everything is contained in iTunes. When you connect your phone to your computer, it still launches iTunes automatically. It’s gonna bring up your phone. It might try and automatically sync stuff. It’s still bogged down with all of these forms of media and everything else that Apple has been using to do file management on the iPhone. As time has gone on, more and more things go to the cloud.

You see Apple Music launch, and it kind of makes iTunes not really be needed that much, especially when you see that things like books and podcasts and music all have their own separate app on the iPhone. It doesn’t really make sense for them all to be contained in one app on the computer. Apple’s doing the right thing here by breaking everything out into separate apps that will be smaller and faster and make it a lot easier to manage all of your media. iTunes gets a lot of flack now, and it’s a good thing that Apple is killing it, but for a while, it was one of the best apps that Apple had, and it really helped with the early aughts turnaround of the company.

The turnaround of Apple is one of the greatest stories in the history of tech. And yes, it is time for iTunes to die, but it shouldn’t be glossed over when looking at Apple’s turnaround and how much iTunes helped it invade the PC market and give Apple a Trojan horse into Windows users and get them onto the iPod and get them onto the iPhone. And this is the software that enabled that.