iTunes’ Identity Crisis

The cloud-based iTunes rumour is still doing the rounds, and besides suiting me better it could be an opportunity for Apple to resolve the question of what iTunes is actually for.  It started out as a music player on the Mac, but as a result of mission creep has become much more.  Meanwhile its music store is an iOS app, the rest of its functions an iPod app; and now iBooks has come along and muddied the waters further.

My mum asked my sister “Is iTunes on your iPhone?”.  I thought the answer would be no, but it’s actually yes.  There iTunes Music Store (iTMS) App is labelled iTunes.  That handles all the media (music, audiobooks, podcast) acquisition. There’s also the iPod app which handles playback of all the media. So on the iPhone, iTunes is the iTMS.  The iPod app makes the phone into an “old fashioned iPod”.

But now there’s also the iBooks app which handles both reading and acquisition of books, not following the model of a separate apps for acquisition and playback.  When you’re in iTunes on the Mac, the iBooks store does not appear to be part of the iTMS (even though the App store, which has a separate app on the phone is).  Though on the Mac iTunes does handle iBook book syncing…

And on the iPad, the iPod app only plays audio (unless – and I haven’t tested this – it plays video podcasts).  That’s because there’s a separate app on there for playing back movies and TV shows.


  • iTunes is the iTMS on the iPhone/iPad, but everything on the Mac
  • iPod is audio playback on the iPad, but also video on the iPhone
  • iBooks is everything to do with books on the iPhone/iPad but (apart from syncing) is not supported at all on the Mac.

Here’s where I think the cloud could come in and resolves it all: the iTMS is already “out there” (ie not local to any device) and if it becomes possible to access my music that way too (spotify style), then apps like the iPod app or the iPad video app will need to connect to the cloud.   In effect they both become equivalent to iBooks.  That will make the separate iTMS app redundant.  iTunes on the Mac would just become another way to access and manage the same stuff (albeit unified in one app), and ideally some other app should handle the device syncing.


About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See for more...

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