Head on over to Apple’s site today and you will see that its time for another software update for iTunes. Apple’s venerable music player has undergone another aesthetic revamp and feature boost in its latest incarnation. Now equipped with a subtle charcoal grey facelift and a return to the ‘classic’ blue icon these little tweaks serve to give iTunes a slightly leaner look than its predecessor.
The application functionality has been carved up a little as well, it seems Apple are keen to show the world that iTunes is no longer just a music player and nor is its sister component Music Store just a repository for your favourite sounds. As of today the iTunes store has taken the step of selling not just your favourite albums but it now also sells movies.
That is if you live in the States…
Companies such as Disney, Miramax, Pixar and Touchstone have all got movies available for download from the US version of the store and once all the legal wrangles have been sorted the UK should hopefully follow suit. Alas at this point it looks like its going to happen in the first quarter of 2007, so you might as well leave the popcorn and jumbo coke where they are for now.
We might not get the full package just yet but there is still something to be said for the software itself. iTunes has always been a sturdy and well featured application regardless of what platform it runs on. This time round however there have been a few little tweaks under the hood that should improve the experience even further.
For starters the overall library layout has now been carved up into more defined parts. Now rather than just looking at your library as whole it is split into sections (Music/Movies/TV Shows/Podcasts/Radio). The Store is now given a more prominent place in the listings as well enabling you to not only access the goodies quickly but also to see what you have purchased at a glance.
When an iPod is connected to the computer you can check its status and it’s all displayed with a spanky looking graphic that shows you just how your iPod is working for you. How much of its hard drive is dedicated to audio or alternatively how much is being utilised for data storage.
In terms of additional features the capacity to grab artwork for your purchases is now integrated into the software and with the click of a button (and the ownership of an iTunes account…sneaky) you can now grab the pictures that go with your albums. I had something of a mixed experience with this as some pretty obvious albums were missed out but apparently for every album iTunes misses it reports back to the Store so the bods back in Cupertino can remedy the situation.
Visually there are some nice little touches, for example when it comes to scrolling through your playlists. In shuffle mode for example rather than scrolling down lists of artists you can flick through your selections by looking at the cover shots of the CD in much the same way you would if you were looking through your collection at home.
Of course a lot of what’s been bolted on here are plain and simple aesthetics. Many of these features were already available as third party bolt ons (albeit in some cases rather clumsy affairs). Of course the main reason to launch this timely upgrade was for Apple to bring its new services to the market. There’s nothing as good an advertising tool as a piece of software you use day in and day out, especially when its new features are glaring at you down the left hand side of the screen.
Apple have already cornered the market in music but it remains to be seen whether Hollywood is just as eager to roll over and have its stomach tickled in the same way the record industry did. Buying music to listen to on your computer is something of a naturalistic experience. You can listen to tracks while you work, browse the web or chat online. However when it comes to watching stuff for long periods is your Mac ever going to take the place of a comfy sofa and a half decent television…only time will tell.