Why iTunes is So Hard to Beat
"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.