As Apple fans and the wider tech community gear up for WWDC, there are common areas of anticipation. Indeed, WWDC is fairly predictable in some sense, with new versions of iOS, iPad OS, tvOS, and whateverelseOS Apple has for the year being debuted. It’s also a developer conference, so those building on and for Apple, get their eyes on the latest and greatest. But there’s a more low-key announcement I want to see from Apple this year: iTunes being terminated. Put it out to pasture, it’s done. Nobody would miss it.
This idea first resonated in my mind upon reading a piece by a former colleague, Daryl Baxter over-at TechRadar. Windows is the last bastion of iTunes and as Baxter’s headline reads, it’s almost like a punishment. I have never conversed with a single person who has ever enjoyed using iTunes either on Windows or Mac. I’ve been using it for about 19 years and it’s never been fun. So it’s time to go.
iTunes never got better
The ‘modern’ iTunes for Windows has hardly moved along from the earliest incarnations. At first, it was a necessary evil. If you wanted to use an iPod and you had a Windows PC, you had to use iTunes. It was entirely required to transfer your digital music to your digital music player.
Even in the early days of the iPhone, iTunes had a place. It was clunky to use but for transferring to and from your shiny new Apple phone, it was something you lived with.
But those days are far behind us. Apple has just discontinued the iPod and who connects their iPhone or iPad to a computer to transfer files anymore? The truth is that even Apple doesn’t see a reason to use iTunes anymore, after all, it was pulled from the Mac a few years ago. But Windows users are left to suffer, with a product that sees updates but never actually improves.
Its sole purpose nowadays is as a front-end to Apple Music, your previously purchased music and video library, and the iTunes Store. Everything you do on your iPhone and iPad is wireless. If iTunes for Windows provided access to Apple TV+, there might be an argument to keep it. But it doesn’t, so there isn’t. And again, Apple discontinued it on its own desktop platform three years ago. If there were reason to keep it, that wouldn’t have happened, would it?
On the Mac, you have Music, Podcasts and Apple TV+. All of these apps are better than the clunky mess that is iTunes for Windows. If Apple has enough paying customers for its music service on Windows that it cares enough to keep iTunes alive, then give us the better apps.
Third-party devs doing what Apple can’t, or won’t
Apple Music is available as a web app, and it’s decent enough. But it doesn’t have offline music. There is also a far superior third-party app called Cider. And right now this is the only way anyone should use Apple Music on Windows, albeit, again, without offline music. If you need to be offline, you have to use iTunes.
Cider, though, is magnificent, even in its early days. It’s a free, open-source application with a UI reminiscent of the Apple Music web app. But it goes much further, with a whole raft of settings and customizations. I’ve got a Dracula theme running on mine. It’s not just visuals, either, there are features to tweak audio, apply lyrics, link to Discord even some experimental plugins. It even has podcasts.
There’s still plenty to be done and some features, such as sync, are labeled as a work in progress. But it’s hosted on Github and has a beta or stable channel you can follow.
Cider isn’t just available on Windows, but it does at least serve as a worthwhile alternative to having iTunes in your life. Made better by the fact that it’s a really good app. Check it out either on Github, the Microsoft Store, or install it through the Windows Package Manager.
Only one thing that needs to happen
Nobody is surprised Apple prioritizes its own platforms. But nobody is going to be so fed up with iTunes that they’d run out and buy a Mac. Services like music, podcasts, and TV need to be platform agnostic. Windows just has the numbers. Would the iPod have taken off like it did if it had remained a Mac-only product? Definitely not.
Apple has been pretty generous with supporting other platforms with its media services. Apple Music is on Android and the major smart speakers and Apple TV is available on games consoles and competing smart TV platforms. The precedence for the guardians of iTunes to be a bit more generous to its customers who don’t draw themselves entirely in Apple hardware is there. By all accounts, the Mac apps are pretty nice to use. Sure would be nice to have them on Windows.
So please, Apple, finally do the decent thing. The iPod is gone, and iTunes needs to follow.