iTunes 10 Logo contest: You could Win an iPod Shuffle!

by Chris Seibold Sep 08, 2010

Let's start with some trivia. You've seen ads for old clocks, the kind with analog hands, right? You've also noticed that the hands are always at 10 and 2, yes? Good news, you're about to learn the reason why clockmakers put the hands at 10:10. The reason? That was the time John F. Kennedy was shot. Just kidding, that answer is complete nonsense. The real reason is that 10:10 shows off the watch in the most desirable manner.

Which brings us to the weird 9:40 question with Apple products. Why is it that when Apple introduces something with a time stamp on it, a new iPhone for example, the time is always set to 9:40? The easy thing to think is that the time is displayed to maximize the look of the product. That's wrong, it turns out that Apple introduces the most important product at 9:40. So when you watch a keynote or a special event no matter how cool the stuff that is trotted out before 9:40, it isn't the show stopper.

What came about at 9:40 at the last Apple presser? iTunes 10. Apple clearly sees iTunes 10 as a huge deal—bigger than the iPod touch with FaceTime, that weird nano thing that was introduced, or the new rent-and-stream-only Apple TV. If Apple thinks iTunes is a huge deal, then Apple users should probably be aware that iTunes 10 is the future of Apple.

There is some unequivocal good with the new iTunes. The list view has been improved, instead of a repeated album name you'll see the album cover if you have more than five songs from the album. The preference pane buttons are now monochromatic which is a lot easier on the eyes. Most importantly, reports indicate that iTunes 10 runs more smoothly than its predecessor.

Here's the thing. iTunes 10 is a problem child. Sure, it is better than iTunes 9 or 8 or 7 and probably better than 6, 5, and 4 but that doesn't mean it doesn't have all kinds of issues. Before delving into the inherent hell that has become iTunes let's take a look at the common objections to iTunes 10.

First complaint: The icon. People hate the icon, they positively despise it. It's weird to get so upset about something so easily remedied, but there you have it. If you're interested, if you are one of the haters, instructions for replacing the icon can be found here.  Just complaining about the new icon doesn't get us anywhere.  The question is, does the iTunes icon adequately reflect what iTunes is about? iTunes is about music so it seems to satisfy Apple Human interface guidelines. To wit:


If the primary function of your application is creating or handling media, its icon should display the media the application creates or views. If appropriate, the icon should also contain a tool that communicates the type of task the application allows the user to accomplish. The Preview icon, for example, uses a magnification tool to help convey that the application can be used to view pictures. If you include a supportive tool element, it should closely relate to the base object that it rests upon.


When Apple took the CD away the company was right on. Time to quit worrying about the icon.


The other big objection to the new version of iTunes is the three buttons—close, minimize and maximize. Instead of running horizontally they now run vertically. The easy objection is to say "This change walks all over the usability guidelines laid down by Apple!" That objection is completely valid, but OS X changes over time, this small change isn't anything to get worked up about. In fact, one suspects that you're looking at the future of OS X. If you just can't stand the new vertical layout instructions for undoing the future can be found here. 

Which brings us to the really big thing about iTunes. Ping. No, it's not a virtual golf club you can hit people with over the 'net (not that that's a bad idea) it is TRYING to be a new social media thing. If you think of this as Twitter or FaceBook that heavily relies on music you won't be far off. You can see what songs your friends just bought and so on. But if you're wondering what TV show they just watched or movie they just rented you are out of luck (for now).

Ping, like iTunes itself, has promise, at least if you sincerely believe the world needs another social media website. But Ping has some big problems. You can't use Ping without iTunes. You can use Twitter or Facebook on any computer or smartphone you happen to be using. If you want to use Ping you better hope you've got a computer with iTunes installed or an iPhone.

The good thing about Ping is that it actually has a business model, Apple does nothing that doesn't make financial sense, the worrisome thing about Ping is the notion that everyone really wants another social media service. For more detailed loathing of Ping see Hadley Stern's article on the topic. Oh, if you want to turn off Ping, the procedure is simple.

When iTunes first started out it was called SoundJam MP (catchy eh?) and just managed your music. Apple bought it and later added support for the iPod. Purchases were the next step but it everything still made sense. Over the years that has changed. Now you use iTunes to handle app purchases, TV show rentals and purchases, movie stuff. Each addition was incremental but, over the years, all the additional functionality has made iTunes an unwieldy monster of a program. Is it supposed to handle all your media? If so why does iPhoto pop up when you plug your phone in? Is it just for stuff you can buy from Apple? Then why is it managing all the CDs you ripped back in the nineties?

It seems like everyone is right—a new icon is needed. The current icon simply doesn't give the user any idea of everything iTunes does. Sadly, the Apple Matters design staff is off for Labor Day so time to break out the markers.

There, that icon covers the most important parts of iTunes. You've got your Ping stuff, TV capabilities, movie things, and, of course, music. Unfortunately, you'll need a bigger dock.*

So iTunes does too much, but you are probably saying "I'd like to see you do better clever Dan!" And you're right. Making something better than iTunes, something less muddled and more streamlined is likely tough. But isn't that the kind of innovation we expect from Apple? 

*Anyone who actually takes the time to turn that monstrosity of a png file into an iTunes icon gets a shot at a free iPod shuffle. Send me a screenshot of the vomit inducing icon living in your dock (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) AND leave a comment. In a week I'll randomly choose a winner from all entrants. You can even pick your color.



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    Chris Seibold had this to say on Sep 10, 2010 Posts: 354
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