Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of iTunes. 10 years. I’ve been using it for about 8.5. The only program I have been using longer is Word. But unlike Word, iTunes is a program that is constantly being maintained, managed and updated by me. There really isn’t any other program like it. It’s been around so long I think people are forgetting how important it has become, and that it is the program on which Apple has built it’s current empire.
iTunes was released in January of 2001, 10 months before the iPod was even announced. By the time the iPod was a phenomenon (2004) iTunes was more than a place to store and organize your music; it was a place where you could purchase music. iTunes is what made it easier to buy music than to steal it, and, one could argue, it saved the music industry.
When the iPhone launched in 2007 one of it’s biggest selling points was iTunes integration. Remember, at launch there was no App Store. The phone had a finite amount of things it could do, but syncing with your iTunes was actually the feature that sold me. It meant ditching my iPod and just carrying only one device.
I still believe that iTunes is the reason Apple’s phones have as much internal storage as they do. Apple has put a focus on internal storage since launch. The current iPhone has 32 gigs of storage while many other phones have only 1 gig with a memory card slot for ‘optional storage.’ Honestly, without iTunes it’s hard to justify needing any more than a few gigs. Many Android users I know also carry an iPod for their music.
Palm knew this. When the Pre launched in 2009 their firmware tricked iTunes into thinking it was an iPod. Apple released a patch for iTunes blocking the Pre. Palm released a firmware update tricking it again. This game played out for months until the USB Implementers Forum (… yes, that exists…) ruled that Palm had to stop deceiving Apple’s software.
Last year the iPad was released. Apple has sold millions, but you can’t do a single thing with it until you plug it into your computer and sync with iTunes. It is a media consumption device, how else do you plan on getting your media on there?
I have said, often, that I am too deep into Apple’s ecosystem to ever climb out. iTunes is the biggest factor here. Maybe it’s because I have been walking around New York City for 8.5 years and without music traveling would be unbearable. Without iTunes I certainly wouldn’t be listening as much as I am. Apple knows that. It’s why they keep making products that with a direct link to iTunes.
iTunes is such a staple in my life that I recently purchased an Apple TV, and I don’t even think it’s that great as a set top box. I actually wanted a Boxee Box. But Boxee doesn’t stream my carefully organized, easily sorted iTunes. I could stream the files, but I’d never find anything. The database that has been maintained for nearly a decade as well as my carefully manicured playlists would fall by the wayside.
So, yes, I purchased an Apple TV so I could stream iTunes to a receiver that sends music into 3 different rooms in my apartment. But at this point, I pretty much had to. There was no other easy way of getting it there. I could have gotten a Mac Mini server, but it would still be running iTunes.
Today iTunes is the easiest ways to buy music, television shows and movies. It’s also the best way to store all of your media, even if it’s not from iTunes. I get most of my music from eMusic and it cooperates very nicely with iTunes. So does the Amazon digital marketplace. It has to. If it didn’t people wouldn’t use those services.
It sounds ridiculous to say that Apple has built its empire on top of a piece of free software. But it’s the platform that has launched all of its non-computer devices. The iPod, iPhone and iPad are all much larger success than the Mac and the MacBook. And none of them would work without iTunes.
Cheers iTunes. I’ll see you in ten more years, and on every day between here and there.
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