Tag Archives: iTunes

On the demise of Ping

Ping: What went wrong | Macworld: “And therein lies Ping’s primary defect. Though dressed in social garb, at its heart, it’s a crude advertising vehicle. And one—undoubtedly to the great disappointment of some at Apple—that too many people saw through.”

(Via Macworld.)

Another great article from Christopher Breen. I’d add that another of Ping’s shortcomings is that you can’t simply post links to interesting articles, stories, pictures, etc. Artists could post whatever they wanted, but regular users like you and me had to start every conversation with a link to a song in iTunes. Talk about “marketing smell.” That limitation was just plain stupid. 

Part of me thinks that any social network that tries to limit people to just talking about music is doomed to fail, anyway. I mean, I love music more than the average person, but I don’t always want to share only music. Sometimes, I want to share stories about music, apps that help you make music, books on the subject of music, pictures of my favorite bands, etc. The reason Facebook works so well is that you can literally share anything about anything. Sure, this leads to a lot more noise than signal, but it also encourages participation. I have a hard enough time finding things that I find post-worthy on a social network without the network itself telling me what I can and can’t post. 

I know the current trend is towards more targeted social networks, but that’s simply a reaction to Facebook’s monopoly. I have to think that most of those mini networks will either be acquired by Facebook or die from lack of participation eventually. A small, targeted audience can’t live on advertising as easily as Facebook. You’ll never have a big enough audience to pay the bills. 

Jason Snell on iTunes

iTunes: Time to right the syncing ship | Macworld:

The iTunes we’ve all come to know has had a good run, but it’s reached the point where it is a crazy agglomeration of features and functionality. If someone were to design it today, it wouldn’t remotely resemble its current state. And as a portal to iOS devices and the iTunes Store, iTunes is too crucial to Apple’s business to ignore or run on auto-pilot.

(Via www.macworld.com)

I think just about everyone who uses iTunes, which is everyone, agrees with the sentiment here. iTunes is definitely over bloated, and it’s trying to do way too many things at once.

But I think it was John Gruber who pointed out a while ago that iTunes is one of very few cross-platorm apps for Apple. The reason they packed so much into that one app is that they don’t want to be in the business of building and maintaining several Windows apps. Sooner or later, something is going to have to give, but that’s how we got here, anyway.

What I do is limit my need for iTunes as much as possible. Podcasts? I use Downcast for that. Movies and TV Shows? All done with iCloud on my Apple TV and iPad at this point. Photostream and Dropbox takes care of most of my photo needs.

So the only thing I really sync with iTunes anymore is music. I could use iTunes Match for that, of course, but that’s still so buggy I can’t rely on it. I expect that will get better over time.

I think Apple’s strategy isn’t to break up iTunes into several new apps, but rather to eliminate the need for iTunes almost entirely. Turn it back into a simple music store/music player for the Mac, and replace everything else with iCloud.

We’re just not quite there yet.

iTunes Match Confusion Abound

Here are some of the most common queries, concerns, and misconceptions about Apple’s music service, laid out for your reading pleasure.

via iTunes Match: What you need to know | Macworld.

Macworld wrote a nice article here clearing up a lot of the misconceptions surrounding iTunes Match. I think this is a classic case of people hearing what they wanted to hear back when Apple announced this service. Many had it in their heads that it was some grand Cloud strategy that would allow them to no longer store any of their music on their devices, and just stream it all at will from anywhere. And that’s not really what iTunes Match is.

Which is why I questioned the value of iTunes Match when it was announced, and everyone else seemed to think I was crazy.

The way I see it, there are only two reasons to become an iTunes Match member, and only one to become a long-term subscriber.

1. You have a lot of songs in your iTunes library that are lower quality than 256 AAC, and you want a quick and cheap way to upgrade all those tracks to better-quality versions.

2. You have a lot of obscure music that isn’t available on iTunes, and you’re too lazy to set up music synching with your computer and let it sync once.

The first reason turned out, to my surprise, to be enough for me to sign up, at least for one year. I don’t plan on re-subscribing next year, as reason 2 doesn’t apply to me. But I found that I did indeed have a lot of tracks (over 7,000) that were either ripped from my CDs prior to the iTunes Store era, in which case they were mostly MP3s, or, and this was the kicker, bought prior to Apple’s switch over to iTunes Plus, in which case they were still encumbered with DRM and only encoded at 128k. Apple has long had a service whereby you could pay 30 cents a track to upgrade your old purchased tracks to 256, non-DRM versions, but with the size of my purchased library, I was looking at over $350 to upgrade all my older tunes to iTunes Plus. So I never did. And that would leave my old CD rips out, as well. Being able to upgrade all those tunes alone made the $24.99 for one year of iTunes Match a no-brainer for me.

For those of you who never paid for your music back in the Napster era, think of iTunes Match as a one-time $25 fee to make as much as 25,000 songs of that music legit, no questions asked. My guess is that if you didn’t value the music enough to pay for it back then, you won’t now, even at that bargain price.

Beyond upgrading old purchased and CD tracks to 256k, though, I don’t really see the point of iTunes Match in the long run. Because, and here’s where the confusion comes in for a lot of people, it’s not a streaming service. There’s a streaming component, but it’s not the primary focus.

Sure, you can technically stream songs in iTunes that aren’t on your computer. And your AppleTV, which doesn’t have a hard drive, will stream your music as well. But that doesn’t make iTunes Match a streaming service. Rather, it’s a service that happens to stream sometimes.

iTunes Match is essentially iCloud for your music. Like iCloud, there is a copy out there in the Cloud for you to grab and pull down to any one of your devices. But the focus is still on the local copy of the file. On iOS devices, if you listen to any iTunes Match track that isn’t currently on the device, it doesn’t stream; it DOWNLOADS the track and leaves it on the device after you’ve listened. It plays the local copy, not the Cloud copy, in other words.

And, to be honest, that’s the way I want it. I don’t live in this fantasy world where I’m connected to solid, uninterrupted 3G or Wifi 24-hours a day. In fact, where I listen to music the most (on the subway, walking around downtown San Francisco, and in many cafés) I’m connected to neither 3G nor WiFi quite often. So a Cloud-only music service would be fairly useless to me. I’d be without music a majority of the time.

Downloading the occasional random track that I didn’t think I’d want while I was around my computer last is a nice bonus, sure. But the chances that I’ll want to do that often enough to justify $25 a year are slim.

I’m perfectly content with going to iTunes on my computer and telling it to sync my music over WiFi once. After that, everything I buy new on the iTunes Store gets downloaded automatically to all my iOS devices, anyway. And all my past iTunes purchases can be downloaded with a tap, no iTunes Match needed. It’s only my old CD rips that won’t be available in the cloud after my first year is up. No big deal to me.

If the majority of your music isn’t from iTunes, AND it’s obscure enough that iTunes Match won’t even recognize it, AND you still want to be able to download it at will, then sure it makes sense to keep subscribing year after year to iTunes Match. Otherwise, sign up for the first year, get your lower-quality tunes matched up, and then you’re good to go.

If you’re really looking to store no music on any devices, and you just want to stream everywhere all the time, then Apple isn’t where you want to get your music. Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, etc. are the way to go for you.

If you’re a quality nut, and you only want songs ripped in pristine AIFF or Apple Lossless, no Cloud service is ever  going to be for you. You’ll be manually syncing forever.

If you have more than 25,000 tracks, you should seek professional help. You’re a collector, not a listener. No one who owns that much music has listened to it all once, let alone enough to appreciate it.

Why so many people seemed to think that iTunes Match was going to be everything for everyone is a mystery to me. As I said before, I think a lot of people heard what they wanted to hear, rather than what was actually being announced.

KERUFF, responding to Musically’s article on Amazon’s and Google’s online music ventures

Amazon & Google play into Apple’s hands with their early, incomplete music stores

Musically:

Apple likes to be late, and better. So by racing to market without licences, have Google and Amazon simply set their services up as the Creative Nomad jukeboxes of the cloud music age? Ironically, by launching without deals from labels, both companies may have given Apple the leverage it needs to strike the very licensing deals that will help its cloud service blow them out of the water.

I think Musically could be right. And there’s certainly no first mover advantage on the scale that Apple had with the iPad. One month here or there won’t make much difference. Especially as it strikes me that both Amazon and Google have released half baked products that will look pretty shoddy when Apple announces their service, probably in June.

I completely agree, and I’d add that the first mover advantage is even less of an issue in this case, because as of now streaming music lockers is still more of a nerd’s dream than anything the average person knows he or she wants yet.

Until the 4G/WiFi infrastructure improves, having digital music stored in the cloud is much more of a “nice to have” than a replacement for local storage. Especially where I live in San Francisco, the notion of having an iPod that can only get its music from the cloud is silly, at best. I’d be lucky to have 3G or wireless access 40% of the time when I’m away from home or work.

So Apple can certainly take its time here. I wouldn’t be surprised if streaming online music is only a small part of the “iCloud” product. And depending on how long the deal takes with the labels, it may even not be a part of the initial announcement. Amazon and Google sure did make negotiations easier for Apple, though.

Apple May Have Snapped Up iCloud.com: GigaOM

My source, who is familiar with the company, says that Xcerion has sold the domain to Apple for about $4.5 million. Xcerion hasn’t responded to my queries as yet. At the time of writing, the Whois database showed Xcerion as the owner of iCloud.

Two thoughts about this. First, as much as I HOPE Apple doesn’t name its service “i” anything, let alone “iCloud”, this would make perfect sense. The one place where Apple manages to be cheesy and unimaginative is with its names for things. After Magic Trackpad, I gave up all hope of any Apple product having a good name ever again.

Second, if I were this company, and Apple gave me $4.5 million to change my name, I wouldn’t change it to “Cloud Me.” That’s going to give you almost as big a branding issue as iCloud would have. Cloud Me is too much like Mobile Me, isn’t it? It still sounds too much like an Apple product. I can just see the president of this company, shaking hands with Steve Jobs as they sign the deal.

Steve: “So what are you going to change the name to?”

“Cloud Me,” the president says.

Steve: “Ummm, no.”

You’d think they’d change the name to something COMPLETELY un-Apple like, to avoid any sort of confusion. You’d also think that Apple would want to buy iCloud AND Cloud Me, wouldn’t you?

Maybe that was another $4.5 million. But with $65 billion in the bank, why not buy a little extra added comfort?

Or maybe Apple actually bought this whole company, not just the name? Maybe Apple’s service will be called “Cloud Me,” not “iCloud.”

I just hope we find out soon. The rumor mill is starting to eat itself.

Shocking new rumor: Apple may charge money for new cloud service

Citing insiders in the music industry, CNet reported Tuesday that Apple is expected to charge — if not at first, then eventually — for its music cloud service.

Personally, I can’t wait until Apple releases whatever this cloud service is going to be, not because I think I’ll get a whole lot of new functionality that I need out of it, but because I can’t wait for the ridiculous rumors about it to stop.

But this new little twist, that Apple plans to CHARGE for the service, cracks me up. How shocked the tech pundits will be at this latest development from Cupertino?

Is anyone paying any attention? Of course, it makes perfect sense for Apple to charge for this. That’s what Apple does. It would be more shocking if Apple DIDN’T charge for it.

Apple very seldom does free. You give them money; they give you products and services.

If you want free, go use Google.

Bon Jovi says Steve Jobs killed the music business- If only he had killed Bon Jovi instead

now people are going to say: ‘What happened?’ Steve Jobs is personally responsible for killing the music business.

I remember back when MTV took off, people like David Coverdale from Whitesnake complaining that the popularity of music videos had killed the entire music industry. In reality, what it did was kill bands like Whitesnake, because we finally got a chance to see what those older guys looked like.

Was it unfortunate that looking good became more important than being talented musically? You bet. I think of all the bands like the Doobie Brothers or Boston who never would have been signed in the 80s because they weren’t good-looking enough to present well in a video. There was probably a lot of good music missed from bands popping up since that never had a chance.

But is that MTV’s fault? Or is it our fault for letting that happen? Maybe if we taught music in school we wouldn’t get caught up in the visuals so much while listening to the utter crap that passes for music nowadays.

What Jon Bon Jovi is complaining about is not being able to sell 11 crappy songs along with his one hit. That’s what iTunes is all about. The track, not the album. It forces musicians to give it their all on every single song, instead of packaging that one good song along with an hour’s worth of stinkers.

I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. And that sea change from album to individual track had already happened long before iTunes came around. All Jobs did for the industry was give it a way to collect at least the $.99 for that one track. Prior to that, everyone was just stealing it, Jon.

The album’s fate, and the fate of your local Tower Records, was written in stone the second the first CD was printed, with digital tracks that could easily be separated from each other and transported across the Internet.

And as far as “taking your allowance money and making a decision based on the jacket, not knowing what the record sounded like.” Am I the only one who thinks it’s good that you no longer have to do that? Are you so afraid of what people will think when they hear your crappy lyrics, Jon?

iTunes announcement tomorrow – Intrigued

Okay, I’m not even going to guess on this one. 7 a.m. tomorrow in California? That seems like an odd time to me.

You can call it the usual Apple marketing hyperbole engine at work, but since Apple has replaced its entire home page with this graphic, I’d say it has to be a fairly big deal. There’s a lot of lost revenue associated with taking away valuable home page links, even for a day. They clearly want to make an impact, though they didn’t consider it big enough to host another live keynote event.

None of the usual rumor mills picked up on this one, either, so I’m guessing this particular announcement on this particular day was a fairly recent decision.

It seems way late in the season to be announcing anything that effects holiday shopping, too. So again, I’m not even going to try and guess. Will we finally find out what that big server farm in North Carolina is for? Will iTunes finally go to “the cloud,” whatever that means? Has Apple made that big acquisition that Jobs hinted at a few weeks ago?

I guess we’ll have to wait until tomorrow.