iTunes, iPod nano, and signs for the future

by Giles Turnbull

When iTunes first appeared (January 9th, 2001, fact fans), it pioneered the brushed metal effect that has delighted and annoyed Mac users ever since. In interface design terms, it was a trend setter. Brushed metal slowly infected other apps, even the OS itself.



Now Mail has taken the trend setter crown, because iTunes 5, released today, sports a blue-tinted side bar that looks very familiar. Just like the mailboxes sidebar in Mail, in fact. You can bet that more of these flatter, simpler sidebars are just round the corner; I wouldn't be surprised at all if the Finder's own Sidebar and iPhoto's Sources sidebar adopt this look in the near future.



And it looks like iTunes is the biggest deal as far as Apple is concerned. Look at a screenshot from the apple.com/itunes page today: iTunes promotion is huge. The iPod nano gets a decent size spot. But you really have to look around before you see the tiny little graphic telling you about the ROKR phone.



Screenshot of iTunes web page



Among other things, iTunes 5 can sync contacts with Outlook, or contacts and calendars with Outlook Express. Apple is going out of its way to make users of iTunes for Windows happy.



Apple wants to push iTunes down our throats because that's where it makes the money. As a gateway to the Music Store, and as a hugely successful cross-platform application, iTunes brings in cash like no other piece of iSoftware. Nothing like the money Apple makes from hardware, but still a very nice additional income stream. And the long-term potential for selling music - and one day, we all suspect, TV shows and movies too - makes it more valuable still.



But what does Apple get from ROKR phones? Motorola manufactures them; Cingular (and in the UK, O2) sells them. Everyone has to take a cut along the way. I reckon the ROKR is a much bigger deal to Motorola than it is to Apple.



What I like most about today's announcements are the possible future directions they offer.



I like the lessening of the brushed metal and the flattening of the interface widgets in iTunes. Perhaps we might see this simpler approach elsewhere in OS X.



I like (in fact, I doubt there are many who don't like) the incredible slinkyness of the iPod nano. In a few years, even the "big" iPods will look like this, and include an order of magnitude's more storage space.



And in some ways, I even like the ROKR. It is, as the cellphone retailers will be delighted to remind you, the "first phone with iTunes," but I don't think it will be the last. I have no doubt that eventually, iPods and cellphones will merge into one tiny device (perhaps one that looks a bit like the nano); we just have to go through some early iterations, and this is the first of them.




The queue for drooling over the nano starts here


9 Comments

alderete
2005-09-07 23:43:27
No, iTunes is their competitive advantage
You wrote: "Apple wants to push iTunes down our throats because that's where it makes the money."


I don't think the "push down our throats" comment is fair. God knows, Windows Media Player is more "pushed" than iTunes, which is _totally_ voluntary for Windows users (assuming you agree that purchasing an iPod is a voluntary activity).


More importantly, iTunes is hardly where Apple makes the money. Maybe someday, for now it's a nice little sideline.


What iTunes is for Apple is the major competitive differentiator for their iPod products. iPods are great -- god knows I love mine -- but without iTunes, they'd be just a nice piece of hardware, well designed, but still a pain in the ass to use, because the computer integration would suck as bad as it does for all those other players.


What makes the iPod so special is how easy iTunes makes it to connect an iPod to a computer, rip and sync music from CDs, subscribe to Audible.com, etc. It's iTunes that takes the iPod to a genius-level product.

gilest
2005-09-08 00:33:08
No, iTunes is their competitive advantage
Oh sure, nothing gets pushed quite like Windows Media Player.


The point I was trying to make was that of all three major announcements yesterday, iTunes seemed to be getting the lion's share of the attention on apple.com.


You're right that iTunes is not where Apple makes the money (I said as much in the article). Your title says it: "iTunes is their competitive advantage." They want to get iTunes on to as many computers and devices as possible. I see it as the *gateway* to ever-increasing income for Apple.

jimothy
2005-09-08 04:30:36
Outlook
"iTunes 5 can sync contacts with Outlook, or contacts and calendars with Outlook Express."


I suspect you mean the opposite: Sync contacts and calendars with Outlook, and contacts with Outlook Express.

aristotle
2005-09-08 06:05:13
Re:
Simply put, iTunes is Apple’s lever to keep the lead in the digitized music market.
gilest
2005-09-08 07:09:57
Outlook
I took my information from http://www.apple.com/itunes/sync/, which says:


"Always compatible with Mac OS X Address Book and iCal, iTunes 5 now also supports contacts syncing via Outlook or contacts and calendar syncing via Outlook Express for the PC."


It's a long time since I've used either of those applications, so I just hope Apple knows what it's talking about...


:)

jimothy
2005-09-08 07:24:20
Outlook
I guess you're right. I also guess I'm not that familiar with Outlook Express. I assumed it didn't have calendars.


But remember the immortal words of the Magic 8 Ball: Outlook not so good.

IDunno
2005-09-08 12:43:08
Apple wants to direct your attention to the *iPod nano*
You're being naive.


To claim that "iTunes seemed to be getting the lion's share of the attention on apple.com" over the nano, based on an Apple's webpage of iTunes, is ridiculous.


Look at the iPod nano page and you'll see a correspondingly small section for iTunes.
http://www.apple.com/ipodnano/


To see where Apple's attention is on, you simply need to go to
http://www.apple.com/
Clearly, the iPod nano is where it's at.

jaylaney
2005-09-08 15:57:31
phones and apple
But what does Apple get from ROKR phones? Motorola manufactures them; Cingular (and in the UK, O2) sells them. Everyone has to take a cut along the way. I reckon the ROKR is a much bigger deal to Motorola than it is to Apple.


I think it's more of a looking to the future type thing. Direct to phone music downloads are not here yet, but you know Apple wants to be among the first. They need to keep their market share as far as the music store goes. It's like you said, those little bits of revenue certainly add up.


// jay

jaylaney
2005-09-08 16:01:36
phones and apple
Oh, wait, I'm wrong. Apparently you can download songs- but I'm also reading that it may not be here yet.