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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When should you buy new technology?

When should you buy new technology? Some say that as soon as something better is available, others say wait until it breaks. I think the answer is somewhere in the middle.

When you buy cutting edge stuff, you also buy yourself about 6 months to a year of not being supported. Whatever you have that is cutting edge, very few people know about it, and even few have experience with it. So if it is a mission critical thing and brand new, this is a dangerous combination.

For example, I worked someplace where the owners wanted something the day it came out. That is fine, but then when there was a problem, there was no experience with that new feature. More critically this happens with iOS updates. There was an iOS update years ago that blocked the ability to use the phone since it wouldn’t connect to a network. Apple quickly pulled it, but for many people who updated immediately the damage was done. You had to do a very time-consuming fix to get it working again which was basically deleting everything and updating the firmware. Unsupported and most people would not do this.

When should you buy new technology?So when you buy a new technology is really more dependent on your willingness to assume risk. To me, if you buy something just for yourself you are always safe. Rarely does a purchase you buy make a difference in your life or death. Perhaps a car is an exception to this. However for a company, having a phone or laptop that is unproven is just asking for problems. I see this very common in business, and the negative consequences just as severe.

One company I worked at they ordered a laptop that was unproven and new. It had tons of issues, and ultimately they had to pull all of those laptops from use and give people different laptops. What an expensive mistake that was. Not only did it cause the IT department to lose credibility, but it was a huge waste of time for everyone involved. Of course hindsight is 20/20 but it is prudent to test things with just a few people and that wasn’t done.

It is easy for experienced IT people to say to the decision maker, “Trust me, this brand is reliable.” Yet too often, manufactures change vendors, equipment or even staff without telling their customers. This can made a big difference in the quality of the product. I have seen firsthand the difference in quality between different manufacturing locations. For example, many people believe that Lexus cars made in Japan are superior to Lexus cars manufactured elsewhere. I have no doubt that to be true as well. The difference between people living Kaizen and just being paid to believe in it, make all the difference in the world.

So you should buy technology when the risk and likelihood of failure is low. The first duty of technology is to be reliable.

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