So comes word that Apple is negotiating with music labels to offer a service that competes with Pandora. Not surprisingly, Pandora’s stock dropped after hours as investors felt their sphincters pucker upon hearing the news.
Such news is bound to make Pandora nervous, but it shouldn’t. Like much “news” about Apple, most of this is the vaguest of the vague type stuff. To wit, via the New York Times:
“Apple’s service did not seem to be imminent; indeed, given the length of time it can take to negotiate licenses with the major labels, it could be months away.”
Ho-kay. There are talks. Maybe something will come. Maybe it won’t. But to date, Apple hasn’t amassed a stellar track record in Web services, or social for that matter. Ping was flat out lame. And though it appears to be seldom used, iTunes does in fact have a radio feature built in. Though I can’t recall meeting any human who has used it, or even referred to it for that matter.
It’s also a head scratcher because it’s not like Pandora has put together a killer business. And it’s tiny. Hardly seems worth the trouble.
But perhaps the oddest thing for me is that if — if — Apple is really thinking about this move, it would seem to be a distraction from what would seem to be a far more pressing problem:
Once so revolutionary, iTunes seems dated now. Yes, it remains one of the most vital and popular pieces of software running on desktop computers. Yes, it has the Genius feature, which is neat.
But in general, it has become large, and slow. I try to avoid running it on my home PC as much as possible because it takes forever to launch, and takes too much horsepower to run.
By comparison, when I click on Spotify, it pops right open, and responds quickly. More importantly, Spotify lets me keep all my music in the cloud, taking almost no space on my PC. As memory plunged in cost, it seems like no problem to just download and store tons of audio tracks. But this coming weekend, one of my projects is to move all my iTunes library to a new hard drive because the one on my PC is full.
I signed up for iTunes Match last year, but I find it confusing, and frankly, unreliable at times. Spotify is far easier to manage and sync.
As I said, iTunes still runs on a huge number of computers, an advantage Apple doesn’t want to lose. But it just doesn’t feel as vital any more. It’s become something to avoid.
Time for a major overhaul that makes it smaller, sleeker. It will be an interesting test to see how hard Apple holds on to this important piece of its past, and how willing it will be to give it a major rethink.