With Apple’s upcoming event today, it could be possible that they may announce the next major revision of iTunes – iTunes 9. However, iTunes 8 was only released last September so it’s perhaps unrealistic to expect 9 to be announced today. Nonetheless, I wanted share some features I think will be a part of iTunes 9 – or at least I hope they will be when it’s released.
Magazine and Newspaper Subscriptions
I think it’s inevitable, especially with the upcoming tablet release, that magazine and newspaper subscriptions will be coming to iTunes. Apple has always positioned iTunes and its multimedia devices as having your “entire digital life in your pocket.” In order to live up to that, they must offer magazine and newspaper subscriptions as it’s part of my digital life that’s currently being satisfied by a non-Apple product (the Kindle). I would guess that Apple would enter this market the same way they did with audiobooks – partner with someone in the space. Audible currently powers iTunes audiobook downloads. I would look to the leader in digital magazines Zinio as a possible partner to deliver those digital subscriptions through iTunes. This type of move would be consistent with Apple’s announcement in July to offer interactive PDF’s in iTunes as ancillary upsells to music downloads.
iTunes is essentially a specialized browser for my multimedia life. As such, I would like some flexibility in browsing my library and the iTunes store with multiple tabs. I often find myself in a particular part of the store and want to go somewhere else in the store without navigating away from my current location. Sure, iTunes allows you to open multiple windows but that is really clunky. Tabbed browsing was invented in 1998 and I think it’s about time Apple got on the bandwagon.
Customizing the Interface
When I and the millions of other iTunes users go to the iTunes store we are all presented with the same start screen. Sure, maybe iTunes tweaks the featured albums and movies based on my purchase history but overall everyone is seeing the same thing. Quick links at the top right, top songs and top albums on the right etc.. This makes as much sense to me as having everyone who downloads Firefox be forced to have the same start page. I should be able to create custom modules on my start page and remove ones I never want to see. For example, I never buy music videos and have no interest in them. Yet, the music video module exists on the bottom left of the iTunes store start page. This is certainly not good for me and definitely not good for Apple as it’s wasting valuable real estate where they could put something I might be more apt to purchase.
I believe that there will always be a place for purchased music. However, if Apple wants to stay at the top of the pack it has got to implement a subscription model to sit alongside its traditional music sales model. I joined Rhapsody a couple months ago because I needed the ability to “try before I buy.” When I discover a new artist I go to Rhapsody to listen to the artist’s entire catalogue. However, the bad part about Rhapsody is that my music listening history and ratings are now in two places. I am a power user of smart playlists in iTunes built on play counts and ratings. If iTunes offered a subscription model, my listening history and ratings for songs I listened to on subscription could be appended to the metadata of the song file if I decided to purchase the track. A side benefit to offering a subscription model would be to offer a corresponding iPhone app for the service. Spotify’s new iPhone app as well as the impending Rhapsody iPhone app are poised to go after iTunes head on. However, if Apple offered an iPhone app for its subscription service it would be able to run in the background, which none of the other apps can do. This would be huge benefit and sway many users like myself away from other apps.
Music purchased on iTunes should include the lyrics in the metadata of the file. The metadata format for music files is ID3 and it includes a lyric field that is currently not being utilized by iTunes. If you right click on any song file in your library and select Get Info you can view the empty lyrics section. If iTunes can track down and append missing album artwork to your music, it should be able to do the same for lyrics. My guess is that it’s a legal rights issue and it would cost Apple additional money to offer it to customers. Maybe I’m in the minority but I would pay an additional fee to have the lyrics come as part of my purchase. I know that there are a bunch of third party apps and hacks to append lyrics to your song files but I just want something simple and easy that’s built into iTunes and is reliable.
Make Money (or store credit) by Sharing
I think it’s inevitable that iTunes will start integrating with social networks such as Twitter and Facebook but I’m asking for a little bit more. Let me just say that Apple will probably never do this but it would be cool if they did. I would like to tweet out my currently playing song but do so with an affiliate link tied to my iTunes account. When someone bought a song with that link I would get iTunes store credit. Obviously Apple would probably not need to give anything back to iTunes users as they would most likely use the social sharing feature regardless of store credit but it would be an added bonus.
A Smarter Genius
I would like iTunes to take the data of my library in aggregate as well as from every single song in my library (rating, play count etc…) and compare it to other users. I would like the ability to set custom alerts that appear on a dashboard in iTunes that show me suggestions based on criteria I select. For example, I could set an alert to show me the recent albums purchased by users who have a 90% compatibility with me in regards to rating history. Another example would be the ability to view users’ top 100 most played tracks who have bought the same last three albums I have bought.
I’ll be looking forward to today’s event to see if any of my predictions and hopes become a reality. I’m not holding my breath on any of these but I do really hope that magazines and newspapers as well as subscriptions for music come to iTunes soon!