Apple Divides iTunes Features into Music, Podcast, TV Apps

Apple executives announced the end of iTunes at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) this week. But iTunes features will live on in three apps: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV. The iconic iTunes was created 18 years ago as a so-called digital jukebox that allowed users to import and organize music and burn custom mixes. It evolved into a music store, where an enormous variety of songs sold for 99 cents. In 2003, Steve Jobs declared that “people want to buy their music on the Internet by buying downloads.”

The New York Times reports Jobs added that buying downloads continued the tradition of people buying LPs, cassettes and then CDs. In launching iTunes, Apple was also betting that people who had gravitated to Napster and other bootleg services “would pay for music if it was legal, cheap and easy.”

Although, at the time, many tech-oriented people believed that “information wants to be free,” Apple also offered a solid alternative to Windows file-sharing apps that were buggy and “ridden with malware.” Jobs even joked that the iTunes interface would be accepted by Windows users “like giving a glass of ice water to somebody in hell.”

NYT notes that those techies proved wrong and, more importantly, that iTunes “not only saved the music industry — it may have saved the film, TV and book publishing industries, too.” The NYT‘s  writer dubs iTunes “a core piece of what I call the Middle Internet — the period between the Wild West days of Napster and the hyper-centralized era of Facebook and YouTube.” In that Middle Internet, “few people had smartphones with data plans capable of streaming high-quality media on demand … [and] people actively curated their own online media, rather than having it algorithmically spoon-fed to them.”

The next change came with the advent of Pandora, Spotify and other subscription music services. As they grew in popularity, “ultimately, Mr. Jobs’s prophecy was wrong.” People flocked to streaming services, rather than paying 99 cents to own a song. Now, reported the Recording Industry Association of America, music downloads “make up a smaller percentage of recording sales than physical albums.”

CNN describes how Apple will divvy up iTunes among the three apps: “the Apple Music app is focused on music and personalized recommendations, the Podcasts app lets you search with the help of machine learning and the TV app [which] will blend content from networks such as HBO and Showtime, along with original programming from Apple.”

Apple will also continue to allow users to buy and download songs through the Music app, and buy movies/TV shows in the TV app; iTunes gift cards will remain active. “For people who used iTunes to sync up their devices, Apple said a tool will now be located via the sidebar in Finder on their Macs.”