Tuesday, March 6, 2007

apple dropped the ball with iTunes on Windows

Let me start by saying that I own a Mac -- a PowerBook to be specific. I like it, and I like Apple; they've got a lot going for them:

  • iPod/iTunes mania
  • fantastic marketing
  • sleek-looking, high-quality hardware
  • ravenous fans that would happily buy iPoop

But there are two things that make me curse Apple:

  1. DRM
  2. iTunes on the PC.

I'm not going to rant about DRM, because that song has been sung too many times already. Yes, DRM sucks, but it's the cost of working with the music and movie folks, and Apple has done a decent job of hiding the headaches associated with DRM. Sure, they have to own hardware, software, and the entire purchasing process to make DRM transparent, but they did it, and better than anyone else.

So let's talk about iTunes on the PC. No other piece of software from Apple has such a big potential for impact in the PC world (with the possible exception of Quicktime, but that honeymoon ended years ago). iTunes is the ultimate "why you should switch to Mac" marketing opportunity for Apple. A chance to show these poor PC users what they have been missing out on for all these years...and Apple dropped the ball, big time.

If you don't believe me, get a PC (I'm using a WinXP laptop with a1.7GHz Intel Centrino and a gig of RAM) and use iTunes. Import lots of music, subscribe to podcasts, and just use it for a while. What you will find is that the UI will often become horribly unresponsive.

It's not just that it takes too long to do the hard stuff, it fails to show basic feedback to user input. I'll click a button and the button won't depress, click on a menu and get nothing, grab the scroll bar and find that it is frozen in place. This is unforgivable, especially from a company that has been an industry leader in software usability.

The fans will cry, "but iTunes runs fine on a Mac!" Well, it's better on the Mac, but it is not perfect. And if you, like me, got one of those pre-Intel Macs -- the ones that Steve Jobs swore were "the fastest computers in the universe" -- you have probably seen some of those same UI gaffs on the Mac.

Sure, I'll give Apple a little slack, because they are writing software on someone else's platform, but they didn't even satisfy the most basic response time requirements of a GUI. If, you think that the platform can take the majority of the blame, then try Picasa; it makes iPhoto look slow and simple.

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