iTunes pushed to the grave

The once-revolutionary app is now officially gone in Mac update

After nearly 20 years, it's time to bid farewell to iTunes - the once-revolutionary programme that made online music sales mainstream and effectively blunted the impact of piracy. On iPhones, its functions have long been split into separate apps for music, video and books, but Mac computers followed suit last Monday with a software update called Catalina.

In accordance to Apple's latest push of iTunes towards the grave, the legendary service would be no longer a central hub for music, movies and podcasts. It would be instead split into three separate apps: Apple TV, Apple Music, and Podcasts. According to the company, sidelining the all-in-one iTunes in favour of separate apps will let Apple build features for specific types of media and better promote its TV-streaming and music services to help offset slowing sales of iPhones.

The move also coincides with the company's decision to remove the app as it was simply too cluttered to continue with. In the early days, iTunes was simply a way to get music onto Apple's marquee product, the iPod music player. With simple pricing at launch - 99 cents a single, $9.99 for most albums - many consumers were content to buy music legally rather than seek out sketchy sites for pirated downloads. Furthermore, users connected the iPod to a computer, and songs automatically synced - a simplicity unheard of at the time.

But over time, iTunes software expanded to include podcasts, e-books, audiobooks, movies and TV shows. In the iPhone era, iTunes also made backups and synced voice memos. As the software got bloated to support additional functions, iTunes lost the ease and simplicity that gave it its charm. And with online cloud storage and wireless syncing, it no longer became necessary to connect iPhones to a computer - and iTunes - with a cable.

The way people listen to music has changed, too. The US recording industry now gets 80% of its revenue from paid subscriptions and other streaming. In the first half of 2019, paid subscriptions to Apple Music and competing services rose 30% from a year earlier to 61 million, or $2.8bn, while revenue from digital downloads fell nearly 18% to $462m.

So what happens now? The Mac's new Music app, which gets the old iTunes icon, is the new home for - drum roll - music. That includes songs previously bought from the iTunes store or ripped from CDs, as well as Apple's free online radio stations. It's also the home for Apple's $10-a-month music subscription. Yet, Apple Music subscribers will no longer see the iTunes music store, unless they restore it in settings.

The iTunes store for TV shows and movies will still be prominent on Macs, though now as part of the TV app. Video available to buy or rent will be mixed in with other movies and shows - including exclusive offerings through Apple TV Plus. The new Podcasts app, in the meantime, gets a feature that indexes individual episodes, so you can more easily search for actors or fads that don't appear in the podcast's text description.

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