Bloomberg reports that Apple is working on a major iTunes overhaul that could mark the biggest change in the program since 2003, when it emerged from Apple’s purchase of a music player for the Mac called SoundJam MP.
As I write this, Spotify is playing a track of Mitt Romney talking about health care. It’s also downloading and uploading data representing music, because the desktop version of Spotify uses a peer-to-peer architecture that helps the company save on bandwidth by making users stream bits of music to each other on their private internet connections.
I also have iTunes open, simply because it started up when I plugged in my iPhone to charge via USB. I haven’t touched iTunes all day. It isn’t doing anything.
Guess which program is using more RAM, according to Windows? Spotify is using about 123MB for all that uploading, downloading, and playing, but iTunes is using much more — about 184MB — and it’s just sitting there.
Clearly, the time has come for Apple to revamp iTunes from the ground up, which it probably would have done years ago, had it not been busy reinventing the cellphone industry, creating a marketplace for mobile app developers, releasing the first sensible tablet, and dealing with other issues.
Bloomberg doesn’t attribute its sources, who refused to be named because the plans aren’t made public — or at least they weren’t until today. Here’s what they say Apple will do with clunky old iTunes within 2012:
iTunes –> iCloud
One reason iTunes is so clunky is that it started as a music player but turned into a digital media hub. However, the days when we have to act as our own personal system administrators of music and other files is coming to an end, thanks to everything moving to the cloud — which is really just a fancy way of saying that your stuff will be wherever you want it to be, without you having to do a bunch of stuff. Apple’s cloud thing is iCloud, of course, and according to these sources, the new iTunes will make a much bigger deal out of iCloud than the current version does. This should help iTunes evolve from a desktop media manager to a cloud-based media manager, which it really needs to do to stay ahead of the curve.
Free listens for friends
Apple has apparently been negotiating with music copyright holders to include a new feature that would let your friends listen to at least one of your songs for free. It would be great if this worked with any song in your library, but it might only be for songs you purchased from iTunes.
Stuff will be easier to find
In February, Apple acquired a company called Chomp, which helped people find apps to download (something Evolver.fm does for music apps). It killed off the Android version of Chomp, of course, but the Apple side of Chomp might already be informing search within the iTunes app store. According to Bloomberg, the new iTunes will do even more to help people find not just apps, but music and movies too.
Facebook + Twitter > Ping
Apple’s Ping social network never attained anything close to liftoff, and now it’s going away. Apple has already integrated both Facebook and Twitter into iOS at a deep level, these sources expect the same to happen with iTunes, which sounds like a safe bet. There’s no word on whether iTunes will automatically scrobble plays to Facebook, the way most modern music players already do, but the odds are looking good for that too. Bloomberg says the tighter integration with Facebook and Twitter is for “allowing people to share what they are listening to.”
More band photos and videos
When you’re thinking about buying a song from iTunes, you should encounter a richer world of images and videos, which should help counter iTunes’ spreadsheet-like feel.
Steve Jobs thought people wanted to rent movies and buy music. Apple plans to stick to that plan, according to Bloomberg’s sources, so don’t expect iTunes to start offering a subscription along the lines of MOG, Rdio, Rhapsody, or Spotify — although in a sense, iCloud is already a music subscription. You just have to buy or download the songs first in order to subscribe to them.