Be careful what you wish for…

There’s an idea spreading around the Mac-using world at the moment that Apple should abandon iTunes, and start again from scratch with separate apps handling its various abilities.

There’s one problem with this which gives me pause.

Every change Apple has made to iTunes since version 10, has made the product worse. What has made it worse, is not the overloading of features, but the mindset behind the design of the new features.

UI elements no longer have tooltips. Podcasts have been screwed up, reoriented around streaming and breaking functionality for the download-and-keep model. Lets not forget the disastrous iTunes 11.2 “upgrade” which introduced a new “saved” podcasts feature, which allowed you to protect individual episodes from auto-deletion – and which the upgrade process told you would be applied to ALL of your previously downloaded podcast episodes. That function was faulty, and since iTunes had auto delete after listening defaulted to on, upto half the episodes in many of my stored podcasts disappeared in an instant. Not in the trash, no undo, just gone.

Can’t you just re-download them?

That presumes two things, firstly that bandwidth is free and uncapped, and secondly, that all podcasts keep every episode in their feed forever. Many don’t. Some of my subscriptions have gone offline entirely. The point is, user data is sacrosanct, and deleting it without an explicit command from a user, with an “are you sure” dialog is the greatest sin a piece of software can commit.

This is a symptom of a part of the larger problem Apple has, those who are in charge of the direction of its products are possessed of such immense bandwidth privilege, they seem incapable of designing products for an offline reality. The sheer insanity of using a server on one side of the world, to move a document between two devices a foot apart, or that two devices which can be physically cabled together, can’t share calendar reminders without an internet connection, is hard for me to wrap my head around.

So, given that all the things which are bad about iTunes, are post-version-10 changes to the product, what makes anyone think that an all-new music solution would be anything other than a reflection (and likely a magnification) of the philosophy which created all these ruinous changes?

What’s wrong with iTunes, are the new parts of iTunes, not the presence of what is increasingly becoming “legacy” functionality.

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