Next to my web browser, I guess iTunes is the most-used application on my system. Come to think of it, I may actually use iTunes more than my web browser. I use it to play music, at work and at home, all day and all night.
I’m happy with it, but I view each new version with a mix of trepidation and excitement. Maybe they’ll come out with some killer new feature. Yet I fear that, sooner or later, Apple is bound to screw this good thing up.
I’m especially nervous/excited about major releases. You know, the ones with a whole new version number.
I am mightily unimpressed with iTunes 8.
It’s got a new visualizer. OK, that’s some nice eye candy. Grid view? Basically more eye candy. I guess iTunes 8 does something new with HD video, but I don’t use iTunes to watch anything.
The big new feature that caught my interest was Genius. Hell, it’s the only new feature of interest. And it’s a bust.
Genius (unfortunate name!) is supposed to generate playlists from your collection based on any given song you select. It’s also supposed to supply recommendations of music you might like from the iTunes Music Store. It’s similar to what Pandora or last.fm have been doing for years. The problem is that Genius only seems to derive it’s associations from the iTunes Music Store, and that’s somewhat limiting.
For example, right now I’m listening to “Dariya Da Makiya” by Umaru Sanda. Genius can’t do anything with this track. No playlist, no recommendations. By way of comparison, last.fm can at least recommend two similar artists. What’s more, last.fm will usually let me play music similar to a given artist for free — though to be fair, even last.fm seems to choke on Umaru Sanda.
It seems most of the music in my library is Genius-proof. But even when Genius has recommendations, I’m not interested, because I never use the iTunes Music Store. When I buy music I use Amazon or some other vendor that doesn’t encumber their wares with that Digital Rights Management crap. I turned off the iTMS years ago because of the DRM.
Of course Apple is interested in driving people to their store, which is why I’m convinced they’ll screw up this app some day. Lending support to this idea is another new “feature” in iTunes 8. There are little arrows next to every song and album title, every artist name and musical genre. Click the arrow and it takes you to the appropriate page on the iTunes Music Store. Mind you, that’s not new. The little arrows have been around for quite some time. I turned them off long ago. What’s new in iTunes 8 is that Apple has removed the ability to turn the arrows off. It was an option in the preferences, and now it’s gone, and the arrows are on by default. They’re ugly and useless. How annoying is that? At least there’s a command-line workaround:
defaults write com.apple.iTunes show-store-arrow-links -bool FALSE
So, though it’s not a deal-killer, I find iTunes 8 to be a disappointment. And worse than a disappointment: an annoyance. Too bad, because there are plenty of improvements I would have liked to see.