822 words on iTunes
Amusingly iTunes needed an update to support the non-DRM-crippled songs which Apple started selling today. I guess that’s mainly to update the Help and to introduce the new strange ‘+’ icons which indicate the non-crippled songs as Apple’s infinite wisdom decided to market them as ‘iTunes Plus’. Um, yeah, whatever. Installing the update made me agree to some legal gobbldeegook three times. Wouldn’t a single hunt for the OK button be sufficient?
That + business seems to be quite last minute. Not only because the magic month of May is ending really soon but also because the iTunes store didn’t look like it was ready for the + stuff and it took several hours for it to appear there. The trick, by the way, is to first go to your account settings within the iTunes store and activate the + stuff. The + titles will only appear in iTunes store listings afterwards and they’ll be marked by that + icon along with the ‘improved’ price. Double clicking the + icon takes you to an information page, by the way. Its German version currently makes nonsensical statements
Mit iTunes Plus schaffen Sie ihre eigene Musikerfahrung – which presumably was
With iTunes Plus you create your own music experience in English. It remains to be seen how I create a wholly new experience of music by using a different file format. That page even contains a link to frequently asked questions – which I found strange for a feature that has only existed for a few hours. But at least clicking the link just gives an error message
unknown error (-9843) – so they’re somewhat reasonable there…
A closer look at the enormous iTunes application reveals that indeed most changes are in the help books, the binaries and that we saw the addition of an ‘iTunes.icxs’ file. No idea what that’s good for – my guess from the end of the file name would be some kind of icon but the file itself is just 30KB in size, so it probably won’t be a huge bitmap icon.
Other things I noticed are that the scroll bar in Cover Flow mode looked really blurry on my machine. Things improved after I resized the view (but somehow got worse again later on). I had never seen that problem before. In the German version they also renamed the music library in the source list to
Mediathek – media-library instead of music-library – which I guess is technically more accurate for the current feature set of iTunes. Yet, it is a word that nobody – except some communist technocrats, I suppose – would actually use, so I consider this change to be a bad one. Particularly as this is precisely the name which I could customise to my taste in previous iTunes versions but which they fixed in the iTunes 7 update for some reason.
The ‘Store’ part of the source list also seems to lack the item containing the stuff you previously bought in the store in this version. I always thought it was quite convenient for simple drag and drop backups and reassuring by its mere existence. While I can build a smart playlist working on the file type to presumably give the same results (actually that’s not trivial as it will be hard to make this foolproof in the sense that it is independent of you current language and potential changes of Apple’s naming conventions or file formats), that solution seems cumbersome in comparison.
Finally, problems: The artist sorting brokenness in non-English versions remains and when using the German version you still have to manually mark ‘The’ bands to be sorted correctly. (Yeah, I guess this is a case of
works as specified but it’s still stupid enough to bring it up occasionally). Another problem is speed. This version definitely feels slower than the previous ones and I have seen plenty of multi-second stalls while using it. I cannot really reproduce the problem, though, so I’ll irrationally hope it may be some post-update glitch.
And what about the iPhone? The fact that no iPhone strings or images are found in the iTunes application suggests that we will see yet another iTunes update within a month. Couldn’t they at least have saved us that hassle? I guess paranoia and tight deadlines make that a ‘no’.
You make it sound like the “plus” songs are merely DRM-free… that’s not what the “plus” is referring to… the “plus” in “iTunes Plus” is that the songs are double the bit rate… they’re 256kbps instead of 128kbps. They just happen to be DRM-free. Taking this leap of quality into consideration, the “plus” moniker is totally appropriate. Given all that, what icon would you use to designate “iTunes Plus” songs other than the “plus sign?” Seems perfectly logical to me… but, yeah, whatever.
Personally, I don’t mind paying the extra 30 cents for a higher quality file. It’s a total bargain, and is on-par with what you’d pay for a CD… but without the environmentally-hostile plastics getting in the way (or having to spend the time ripping the music yourself).
I haven’t experienced any of the slow-downs you note, and only had to hit one “okay” button once to dismiss the new agreement.
All in all, I think it is a fantastic new direction for Apple and the iTunes Music Store. My hope is that other record labels will soon follow suit, and I won’t have to purchase another CD ever again.
It might have been more accurate to mark the existing 128k DRMed tracks with a minus sign. :)
I bought two “plus” albums today, and I must say they do sound fantastic.
I totally agree that the + thing is a step in the right direction. It’s a big step forward for the iTunes Store and moves it into an acceptable reason. Yet, I am tired of such ‘improvements’ being marketed to me as some great new thing when it is what they should have offered to begin with. (And, no, I don’t care about the negotiations needed to achieve this and who is involved. Why should I?) I really hope it’s just teething problems I am seeing there.
Of course I’d also like to find a + album which I actually want to listen to and which I don’t own yet… the choice isn’t exactly enormous now – on my side of the Atlantic at least. Also, of my old iTMS purchases there are only a handful of songs to upgrade. Naturally exactly those which I don’t care much about.
Back when Apple was starting up… before they had any clout what-so-ever as a music retailer… and back when the music industry was at the height of blaming piracy for all their woes… how is it that you honestly think that Apple COULD have started selling DRM-free music “to begin with”? Sure it would have been nice to have DRM-free music from the start, but the iTunes Music Store would have never launched because none of the major labels would have signed on. To think otherwise is just plain silly… I mean, Steve Jobs had to fight tooth and nail just to get them to sell individual tracks instead of entire albums!
iTunes Plus tracks are, in fact, improvements… both in quality and flexibility. And iTunes selling these tracks is, in fact, something new… because major record labels have not allowed DRM-free music before. So for Apple to trumpet this as an improvement and something new is perfectly correct.
On top of all this, Apple is trying to do the right thing by allowing people to upgrade their music purchases as the iTunes Plus versions become available. With that in mind, I just don’t get your thinking. After a long battle, DRM-free music is finally looking to be a real possibility, and Apple is working to make it happen… yet here you are complaining that they weren’t able to do it sooner? You may not care about the negotiations required to make it happen, but without negotiations Apple wouldn’t have a product to sell in the first place. Your fantasyland notion that Apple could have just opened up their store and immediately begin selling all music DRM-free without consent from the music companies who actually own it would be funny if it weren’t so blatantly unrealistic.
Sure, Dave2, I know the whole story behind this. But back when they opened the iTMS, they didn’t say something realistic like: “Hey guys, we know this isn’t ideal but it’s the best we could do for the moment and it’s a starting point” but more something like “Whoa this is the greatest, LOL!”.
That forces them to do claim that things are insanely brilliant now that they - or at least part of them - start being decent.
I don’t see the big difference between my ‘fantasyland’ and Apple’s ‘fantasyland’. Apple want me to believe in them doing magic and managing the impossible. Their whole story revolves around them being great and making these perfect, super-special things which people consider to be impossible.
Apple present themselves as a black box which creates shiny gadgets, computers and software. And we are not supposed to worry about how those come to be. Those products, by definition, are perfect. And Apple won’t discuss any shortcomings these products may have because that would destroy the illusion. They want to deliver a package that frees me from the need to worry about any of the technicalities. And that’s a great thing. And one that is very hard to achieve.
If you run around with a reality distortion field that’s a wonderful thing. But you cannot expect people to take reality as an excuse for shortcomings of what you do.
Coming to think about it, Dave2, it’s unclear to me what your problem with my point of view is. Me mocking Apple’s marketing terms?
I’m looking forward to the iTunesDoublePlus format, where the tracks are encoded as ‘unprotected’ Apple Lossless files. Even then, I’m sure some people will grumble because it’s not FLAC.
I promise I won’t grumble. It’ll be doubleplusgood!
So you think that companies introducing a new product should say that it isn’t very good but it’s the best we can do? Who would buy into that?
iTunes Music Store WAS insanely great when it was introduced. It just keeps getting better.
I think companies should be truthful. And if their product isn’t very good, they should not claim it is. In the current culture any such claims are meaningless as everybody claims their product is great, regardless of its quality. Which just amounts to a waste of words.
The iTMS may have been insane when it opened but it certainly wasn’t great. Both for the DRM issues and the small selection of music it offered. And that’s before I start thinking about the country-by-country differences and the mediocre metadata.
But I’m sure that’s just the record companies’ fault once more. Handy, isn’t it?
I guess we’ll have to do the agree to disagree thing here.