Why iTunes is So Hard to Beat

by James R. Stoup Dec 01, 2008

"The details are not details. They make the product." ~Charles Eames

For the past two weeks I've been trying different Linux music players on my Fedora 9 laptop in hopes of finding something that compares to iTunes. So far, it hasn't been pretty. And I must say, I found this somewhat surprising. I had just assumed that by this time someone would have done a credible job of mimicking iTunes. After all, you don't really need to do any innovation, just copy Apple, they already did so much right, just take what you like and call it done.

Only it never seems to be that easy. I tried several players that were highly praised by numerous reviewers online, but the ones that made it to the final round were Banshee, Rhythmbox Music Player, Amarok and Juk. And of these four players, each had something to recommend it. Banshee is clean and simple, Rhythmbox displays song info well, Amarok has tons of features and Juk is very easy to use. To my dismay (as I have no doubt you've already guessed) no one player seemed to nail every requirement.

Ultimately I ended up going with Banshee because it most reminded me of iTunes. In fact, if anything you could think of it as an earlier version of iTunes. It has the general idea and layout, but some key features are missing and it needs a good bit of polish. But otherwise it is a very serviceable application.

And this brings me back to iTunes. There is a lot about iTunes that I don't like. If anything, I think it has reached the point where Apple would be better off scraping the name, redesigning it as an all encompassing media player and call it something new. But even taking that into consideration, iTunes is a wonderful piece of software. And even if you don't like all of the extra crap they have bolted onto it over the years, as a music player it is still the best one I've ever used.

More than anything else Apple understands the quote that started off this review. The details are not details. I encourage anyone who doesn't understand that quote to use linux for a year and then come back to me. Hey, I love linux (in fact, this is being typed up as we speak in Firefox on a Fedora 9 box) and I've tried very hard to customize it to fit my decidedly Apple-influenced tastes, but I realize on a daily basis that the developers working at Redhat don't spend nearly as much time worry about details as the developers working at Apple.

This should be a noted by anyone (Micro-cough-soft) who would seek to compete with Apple. Pay attention to the details, they are what separate functional products from phenomenal products.


  • You seem to know itunes better than Apple. Why don’t you apply for CEO, then you can name the product in any way you like: izune, ivista, i7 anything…

    diogenis had this to say on Dec 02, 2008 Posts: 5
  • @diogenis
    What are you talking about?

    I’ve got to say, I really like iTunes. I’ve been using it since day one, before iTunes I was using soundjam in OS 9. It was iTunes’ playlist management that finally persuaded me to rip all my tracks. I’m kinda nuts about quality, so everything is in lossless format.

    I don’t understand the hostility towards iTunes from some people, is it really that bad on a PC? I would say that iTunes along with Logic Studio is my favorite software, it has completely changed the way that I listen to music and with the genius playlist feature I’m re-discovering so much music.


    Hari Seldon had this to say on Dec 02, 2008 Posts: 1
  • I love iTunes.  I love that I can stream media from my Mac mini to Airport Express connected to my stereo. Or control iTunes from my iPod Touch or another iTunes enable machine.  My non-tech wife and two elementary school kids love that they can build a play list in iTunes in less than 15 minutes.  They love that they do NOT have to manage file folders and meta data like I see other “experienced” technical people do.

    Khürt Williams had this to say on Dec 02, 2008 Posts: 45
  • I wennt tu collidge to lern ow tu spel.

    “If anything, I think it has reached the point where Apple would be better off scraping the name, redesigning it as an all encompassing media player and call it something new.”

    Scraping the name???  Wrecking the English language is more like it.

    enos233 had this to say on Dec 03, 2008 Posts: 3
  • Songbird was released today as an open-source competitor to iTunes.  I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks promising.


    Beeblebrox had this to say on Dec 04, 2008 Posts: 2220
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