iTunes is dying and I’m thrilled to dance on its bloated corpse

Angus Kidman 18 December 2017

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Rumours abound that Apple is preparing to ditch paid music downloads in favour of streaming.

Here's a sentence no-one sane has ever uttered: "iTunes is an amazing piece of software."

Particularly in its Windows incarnation, iTunes is a bloated, bug-ridden beast with an inconsistent and confusing interface, a lousy update process and a tendency to go wildly, wildly wrong. Getting iTunes to acknowledge my password on a new install earlier this year took me five days of on-and-off support phone calls. This pig deserves to be slaughtered, and it looks like that day is coming.

A recent report in Digital Music News suggests that Apple wants to phase out paid music downloads through iTunes by 2019, replacing them with subscriptions to its Apple Music platform. Commercially that would make sense, with consumers increasingly ditching paid downloads in favour of the all-you-can-stream model pioneered by Spotify and since copied by Apple Music, Amazon and others.

Apple, as usual, isn't saying anything about its future plans. Yet there has been clear evidence this year that Apple wants to reduce its dependence on iTunes.

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Back in September, it changed iTunes so that it was no longer used to manage apps on iPhones. That was bad news if you wanted to use iTunes to install older apps that Apple had removed from its "approved" list (and Apple eventually offered a sop to people in that category with a business-specific iTunes release). But it was the logical next step in a process that has seen iTunes move from an utter essential – you couldn't set up the first few generations of iPhones without plugging them into a computer – to largely background noise. Taking away paid downloads makes sense as the next move.

I'm not a huge fan of music downloads anyway, being old-school and tragic enough to still prefer physical formats (CDs, not vinyl, I don't buy into the hype there). Rather like cassette tapes, downloads appear doomed to moving from a dominant format to a very niche market in the course of the next decade.

Even if that doesn't happen, a world without iTunes would be a better world all around.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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