The Leaning Tower of Ping: How iTunes Could Be Apple’s Undoing

9/3/10Follow @wroush

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• It stores copies of your downloaded podcasts and iTunes U videos

• It stores copies of the iBooks editions, PDFs, and audiobooks that you may be consuming on your iPhone or iPad

• It stores copies of all of your iPhone and iPad apps

• The Genius function can suggest apps you might like based on your past downloads

• It stores copies of your iPhone ringtones (but it doesn’t let you make your own ringtones anymore)

• It connects to hundreds of streaming Internet radio stations

• It is the leading podcasting client, automatically downloading new audio and video podcasts to which you have subscribed

• It is the gateway to the iTunes Store, which is really seven separate stores for music, movies, TV shows, apps, podcasts, audio books, and university lectures

• It’s the only way to access the new Ping social network

• It’s the hub for sharing music across your home wireless network

• If you have a new iPhone or iPad, you have to use iTunes to activate cellular or data plans

• It synchronizes the music, movies, or TV shows that you buy on your computer to your iPod, iPhone, or iPad, and vice versa

• It can transcode video in certain PC formats such as QuickTime into formats that are playable on iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Apple TV

• It synchronizes your iCal calendar with the calendars on your iPod, iPhone, or iPad; it also synchronizes your address books and any content in your Notes app

• It is the conduit for installing the MobileMe control panel, if you want to synchronize data automatically across your PC and your Apple devices

• It stores voice memos recorded using the iPhone’s built-in voice memo app

• It’s the repository for music and video files embedded in documents created using Apple’s iWork and iLife productivity applications

• It interacts with the Remote app, which lets you control your media collection from an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad

Any program that can print jewel case inserts and share my music preferences with my friends is starting to sound a lot like that giant clot of bubble gum.

It’s pretty amazing that iTunes runs at all, given everything the mechanics at Apple have crammed under its hood. But I think that Apple’s strategy of using iTunes as the catch-all vehicle for every new feature and function that requires the intervention of a PC is starting to backfire. It’s an extraordinarily creaky and unstable foundation upon which to build a new media empire.

I am not a software engineer, so I can’t phrase my critique as precisely as I’d like, but I think iTunes’ cruftiness shows through in at least a few ways. One is the lack of a … Next Page »

Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and Editor At Large at Xconomy. You can subscribe to his Google Group or e-mail him at wroush@xconomy.com. Follow @wroush

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