Apple removing the headphone jack: Yes or no?

I have been reading opinions and thoughts about this big decision by Apple. I wanted to share my thoughts about it as well.

Apple has always required more money than a Windows user to use their products. In one way they are expensive, and in another way they are very cheap. Let me explain.

Apple removing the headphone jack: Yes or no?Their hardware tends to last a long time. Much longer than a typical windows computer. So for that reason they are cheaper. However getting software to work, and working with the latest Apple technologies usually requires a yearly investment. To me, Apple changing from the headphone jack is only surprising because they didn’t do it sooner.

I know that apple equipment is used by many musicians and creative people. However those niche market customers can easily afford adapters and probably already have them. I am generally in favor of Apple removing niche functionality if it allows lower prices or more rapid development. Apple has lowered prices in the last few years which is a good sign their strategy is working.

There is a cost for compatibility. Individual consumers don’t really appreciate it, but businesses love that Macs can be easily secured for privacy and data protection. Windows computers require additional software and management because of all the ports and connections they have. Compatibility for a business only creates complexity. In this sense, removing the analog audio out port is a great step forward hopefully for legal protection of music and video. Ultimately we should see that artists get higher payments from legal sales of their work.

The downside of course is that this now is digital and DRM can be difficult. Apple pioneered a DRM that was friendly, and for that we are all grateful. It was commonplace before the Apple Music store to find illegal pirated music and video content. It was so difficult to rip and manage music that third-party apps like WinAmp made its creator a millionaire because that addressed that need. I used that app and paid for it because it was so good and reliable in what it did. Legally copying music I owned.

I am not trying to justify Apples decision. I personally find it painful when they discontinue technologies because my customers find it difficult. When they removed the floppy drive, that was an extra cost for those customers. What it actually did however was prompt people to use better file storage like ZIP drives, and ultimately that was more cost-effective than floppies. I don’t like dongles, but on the other hand everyone appreciates Apple laptops becoming thinner and lighter. You can’t have everything. If we continue this drive to lighten and shrink our computers, at some point something has to give.

For me personally, I use headphones that have Bluetooth so the decision doesn’t affect me. Many people can’t afford the more expensive Bluetooth headphones, which some might say this decision is to bolster Apples own profit margin. Since Apple bought beats, some might conclude this is just an attempt to encourage hardware sales. I don’t know, but Apple has plenty of money so doing this just for that reason doesn’t seem likely. I think this decision just continues a long line of decisions on every mac about evaluating where the main audience is, and giving them only what they use and letting niche uses pay for things themselves.

How is listening to music a niche function for the iPhone? I think for Apple the iPhone represents a way to sell apps more than music. Jobs said that they make no profit on iTunes sales, which Apple said they make a small profit on years later. I think they did this just to keep rivals like Microsoft out of this business and to open a door to corporate acceptance of Apple products.

With all of the millions of iPhones that have been sold, Apple is probably worried about what they can offer to keep people buying them. If they can encourage people to buy wireless products like Bluetooth or wi-fi enabled headphones, this can be leveraged for other products like the laptop/desktop. I think they test things with one market segment like the Apple watch and if people respond they add that functionality to other products.

For example, the Apple watch showed a demo with the quick screen that was different from the iPhone. It was similar, but instead of trying to get all the functionality on one screen, the music player controls were broken into another screen. That is a slight refinement that we will probably see added to the next iPhone update. I think this kind of cross-pollination will occur more often if it increases sales.

Apple is probably giving customers what they need, not necessarily what they want. Does this mean you should buy it? It’s up to you how you spend your money.

Itunes returns to an earlier interface

I used to use Itunes for years. It worked pretty well to manage music. Then Apple started to add all kinds of features on it, and the interface got so complicated that it was no longer easy or fun to use. At the same time, frequent Itunes updates kept coming out and better options for getting music online were available. I stopped using Itunes and haven’t regretted it.

I can understand why people would want to use Itunes. For most people it is the easiest thing for them to use. It’s already installed and the Apple geniuses will help them with it for free. The problem is that when you really start to use it, it breaks down and doesn’t work very well. For example, the interface.

Itunes returns to an earlier interfaceApple has always had a strong interface that is intuitive. It is part of the appeal of Apple. So for Apple to change interfaces it is a big deal. I was surprised at many of their design choices in the past. For example, Steve Jobs wanted huge icons in the first version of OS X. It seemed more like a toy than a useful thing. I understanding wanting to show of the technology but it was more than a little ridiculous. Fortunately subsequent versions toned down the childish styling, into something more subtle and elegant.

Itunes has always been a difficult program because Apple has tried to stuff too much functionality into it. I used to help people daily with it, and the average person struggled with it. Of course separate applications might have been better, but customers didn’t really have that choice. Really this was a failure of design, and a glaring failure for Apple. I am not a designer but I thought the interface was inconsistent, and obviously more of a comprise between different ideas than a unified theme.

Now Apple says that the next version of Itunes will have the older interface with the left side navigation. People seem to understand left side interfaces with tabs at the top. It is an interesting choice, and one they rarely make. Apple rarely changes its interface in such a public way and admitting that people prefer a different style than Apple suggests. Steve Jobs famously said that people don’t know what they want until they are told. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Or rather, it says that public feedback is taking the place of a better idea of how to manage the Itunes challenge.

Instead of Itunes I have been using Tidal to listen to music which is a streaming service. I don’t want to hold onto music because my tastes change too much for that. My intuition says that iTunes is going to get the ax like iPhoto/iWeb because it was a failure of design. A new app will combine the podcast app and streaming music. Well whatever it is I hope they listen to designers and test it.

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