Sep 10

iTunes as target practice

Whew. As the iPhone 4 antenna controversy faded into the sunset, I worried that Apple might not give us anything new to get rankled about.

But then right on cue comes iTunes 10 — which has successfully taken its place as the lightning rod du jour.

Let’s start with the undeniable: iTune 10 has flaws.

Personally, I’m fine with a flaw now and then. Apple is successful because it allows itself to take chances, and great leaps often come with a few stumbles. However, making mistakes is one thing — overlooking the obvious is another.

Ping launched with a nasty spam problem that turned off a lot of people. Literally as I write this, Apple has defeated the spam. It’s just incomprehensible that a company this smart would so naively launch a service like Ping without considering its vulnerability to spam. It was an unnecessary black eye.

I’m surprised that Apple unveiled Ping with so few participating artists. Following your favorite artists seems like at least half of Ping’s draw. It would have been an awesome start to have hundreds of artists signed up for the launch, but apparently secrecy trumped recruitment. Now Ping must go through a growing pain that also wasn’t necessary.

I’m surprised that Ping profiles allow users to express an interest in only three musical genres. Even I, ridiculed for my pathetically myopic taste in music, enjoy more than three genres.

Then there’s the matter of the new iTunes icon. Many believe it’s ugly and amateurish. Well, okay, good point. But its problem goes deeper. If Apple thought it was time to redesign the iTunes icon, I would expect them to aim for what iTunes is now, not what it was 10 years ago. Far more than music, iTunes has become the central access point for all our entertainment, including movies and TV shows. Yet the new icon focuses iTunes even more single-mindedly on music. (At least the now-discarded disc, archaic as it was, could have been loosely interpreted as music and movies.)

Apple's new iTunes icon vs. a concerned citizen's redesign (via Mashable.com)

In a Mashable article over the weekend, a number of designers pitched in their alternate ideas for an iTunes icon. You can be sure a similar exercise took place inside Apple. Obviously the priority was losing the boat anchor of the CD, rather than trying to capture the evolved spirit of iTunes.

Though I agree with some of the iTunes complaints out there, I don’t necessarily agree with the proposed solutions. For example, some believe that iTunes has simply become too bloated, and therefore needs to be broken into chunks. In my opinion, what they’re really saying is that it’s no longer as easy or fun to access the goodies as we’ve come to expect from Apple. Having everything in one place is the simplest way to go. iTunes just needs a thoughtful, imaginative interface overhaul. This is what Apple does best, and one wonders why this need has gone so long unaddressed.

I haven’t a shred of doubt that iTunes will quickly overcome its immediate issues. I will sit patiently, along with my three preferred musical genres, for the improvements to come.

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  • sarumbear

    “I will sit patiently, along with my three preferred musical genres, for the improvements to come.”

    I am constantly amazed with the attitude of Apple lovers. Here you are quite obviously unhappy about iTunes and look at your parting shot: I will be patientlly waiting.

    Why? Why you guys are so tolerant?

    You cannot even complain without being positive to a company who failed you. Aren’t Apple supposed to be thinking about their users? Isn’t the reason that they charge above the market rate for their products becuase they are better?

    They failed and still, you are not comlaining. Strange…

  • Bud

    “Ping launched with a nasty spam problem that turned off a lot of people. Literally as I write this, Apple has defeated the spam. It’s just incomprehensible…”

    You should consider that Apple did everything they could before launching to have spam filters in place, knowing that spammers are a tricky lot and find ways of getting their crap through. Filters rely on learning. Once the Ping was up in running, Apple could see what still getting through and adjust accordingly.

    People like to think that Apple’s stupid (why aren’t they on Verizon!!! Don’t they know they can sell loads more iPhone if they were ?!), as if they’re clueless: like they didn’t have a proper spam filter system; like they don’t know their own branding and how to deal with the new iTunes logo (by the way, the redesigned version you have up there is ugly.)

    “one wonders why this need has gone so long unaddressed.”

    Perhaps you should wonder why and let us know. It’s easy to do if you give Apple the benefit of the doubt and think about what might be going on behind the scenes. Obviously, you’d have to use a lot of imagination because we’ll never really know directly from Apple. I used to wonder about the missing copy/paste function on iPhone, and Apple came out with it, and I understood why they took their time.

  • ken segall

    Let me clarify my feelings about Apple. I think they’re the most forward-thinking of all the technology companies, I appreciate that they value design and simplicity, and I feel like they know their customers better than most. They certainly know me better than most. Though they have a history of revolutionary products, the 1.0 versions of those products have always proven to be just a small first step down a far more exciting road. That’s been true for Mac, iPod and iPhone, and I have no doubt it will be true for iPad as well.

    So yeah, I’ve learned to be patient. I accept that perfection doesn’t happen instantly. That’s not to say I like being patient — but unless I’m prepared to go invent the technology myself, I don’t have a lot of choice. I don’t see anyone else innovating as regularly as Apple, or on the scale of Apple.

    I’m curious why you say “they failed and still, you are not complaining.” My entire post was a complaint, and I list my issues one by one.

    I’m not “being positive to a company that has failed me.” Quite the opposite. I’m complaining to a company that has rarely failed me.

  • ken segall

    You guys are making me schizo. Sarumbear (first commenter) thinks I’m way too soft on Apple, now you tell me I should give Apple the benefit of the doubt. What’s a fella to do.

    About Ping spam: Personally, I find it hard to believe that adequate security was in place if spammers were able to bypass it within hours. By that logic, we should see another wave of spam in a couple of hours when they figure out the new defenses. I doubt that will happen.

    FYI, I probably don’t need to use as much imagination as you imply when it comes to what goes on behind the scenes at Apple, especially in regard to branding and iconography. See kensegall.com.

  • Stephen Sonnenfeld

    I’ve been a certified iTunes power user for several years (and unfortunately have the credit card statements to prove it) and couldn’t agree more that a rather significant interface overhaul is required here.

    When iTunes was simply a music store, it was the virtual equivalent of a good indie CD store, with knowledgable staff, and the promise, usually delivered, that you’d walk away from the experience having expanded your musical universe in some interesting way.

    Now it’s about as inspirational as a trip to Walmart. An assault on the senses of mainstream, pop crap. For me at least, iTunes used to be a constant reminder of Apple’s attractive brand values. In it’s current state, with what I believe to be a pretty bad user experience, it’s a necessary evil, at best. And don’t get me started on the Genius function.

    I was thinking along the same lines that perhaps the mall should be broken up into several smaller stores, but I can see the wisdom in a single destination. I know Apple’s not big on the notion of customization, but why shouldn’t I be able to configure my store to only serve up the stuff that I’m interested in seeing?

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