Apple Draws Up Blueprint for iTunes Renovation
iTunes is Apple's central hub for selling e-goods, managing devices and playing media. But at nine years old, it's due for a makeover, and that exactly what Apple's reportedly working on. The new version may arrive with a new iPhone this fall, and it could include new social functions, music-sharing functions and better integration with iCloud.
06/29/12 5:00 AM PT
Apple's iTunes may be getting a facelift soon.
The new iTunes Store will be rolled out later this year -- most likely along with the next generation of Apple's popular iPhone -- and sport improved discovery and sharing capabilities, as well as better iCloud integration, according to a report by Bloomberg News.
While details of the makeover are sketchy, Bloomberg reported that one-way sharing among users would be improved would be to enable sharing of entire songs.
Apple has been unable to deploy that kind of sharing because of rights-holders' objections, but Bloomberg reported that the company may now be ironing out those problems.
It also noted that the store will better support multiple devices, as well as improve its social chops with enhanced integration with Facebook and Twitter.
Apple did not did not respond to our request to comment.
"I think it makes perfect sense that Apple is thinking of doing a rework," Carl Howe, research director at the Yankee Group, told MacNewsWorld.
The store needs to be re-engineered to keep up with the times, he said. "When iTunes launched in 2003, there was just music," he said. "Now we've got music and TV shows and apps and books."
While the iTunes Store has managed to accommodate new content types as they arrived, those accommodations have taken their toll, he continued.
"At some point, you've got to sit down an say, 'How do we create a really good, easy experience for consumers that doesn't involve them wading through endless tabs and subsections of the site," he observed.
Showing Its Age
Not only has the media landscape changed since 2003, but so has the music scene, observed Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group.
"There's a lot more ways for people to get music these days," he told MacNewsWorld. "The product depth of the service has fallen significantly behind other, younger offerings."
"It's still the largest and most successful, but it looks aging and aging badly, so it wouldn't surprise me at all to see Apple update it," he added. "It's good at seeing threats like this and resourcing what's needed to fix them."
Apple's online storage offering, iCloud, will be a crucial element to any iTunes redesign, according to IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell. "iCloud is critically important for Apple moving forward," he told MacNewsWorld.
"Integration between iTunes and iCloud is OK now, but not great," he continued. "So it makes perfect sense to pull those pieces together and make the sharing of media files as easy as it is with documents in iCloud."
It also makes sense for Apple to bundle the new iTunes Store with its iPhone and possibly iPad mini rollout in the fall, he added.
New Social Component
Back-end operations, like those behind iCloud, have always been a problem for Apple, according to Enderle. "iCloud is pretty bad compared to the back-end services of Microsoft, Google and Amazon," he asserted.
"Apple's coming at this from a relatively disadvantageous position, but since they're the largest [player in music], they just have to be good enough to hold onto their users," he added.
In addition to iCloud integration, another important element to any new iTunes Store will be its social component, according to Ben Bajarin, a principal with Creative Strategies. "That social side is one of the more compelling things that can be done going forward because it adds another layer of discoverability to the store," he said.
Apple dabbled with that when it introduced Ping to the store. That service will likely be phased out of any new iTunes Store. "It's a case of 'if first you don't succeed, don't keep flogging the old thing, try something different,'" Yankee's Howe observed.
"I think they're recognizing [Ping] was not the success they hoped it would be," he added.
Another possible addition to a new iTunes Store would be an "all you can eat" subscription music service, something Apple has opposed for a long time. However, "Apple has come out with things it has been opposed to in the past so it wouldn't be the first time that's happened," IDC's O'Donnell observed.