Steve Jobs introduced iTunes in 2001, and it forever changed the way people buy and consume media. It’s also the most crucial app that Apple has ever made.
Initially created as a simple music player, iTunes developed into a sophisticated and somewhat complicated multimedia content manager, e-commerce platform, and hardware synchronization manager. It enables users to create playlists, manage their media content, and synchronize them with handheld devices like the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. Users can also stream Internet music and radio, and buy music, audiobooks, films, and television shows through the iTunes Store.
If you’re an Apple user, perhaps you are aware that iTunes will no longer be included in future Mac computers but instead split it into separate apps: Apple TV, Apple Music, and Apple Podcasts.
A lot has happened ever since iTunes was first released for Mac users, and if you’re curious about its story, you’re at the right place. Here is the history of iTunes, from its inception to its later years, up until the final goodbye.
History of iTunes
SoundJam MP, a program developed by Bill Kincaid and released by Casady& Greene in 1998, was purchased by Apple in 2000, renaming it iTunes. The developers of the software moved to Apple as part of the acquisition, and they simplified SoundJam’s user interface. They added the ability to burn CDs and removed the program’s recording feature and skin support.
The first version of iTunes, dubbed as the “World’s Best and Easiest to Use Jukebox Software,” was announced on January 9, 2001. Its original focus was music, with a library that offers storage, collection, and organization of users’ music collections. It also allows users to import songs and convert them to MP3s.
In October 2001, Apple released its first and original iPod, which automatically synced with iTunes. Back then, the iPod was a breakthrough music player that packs up to 1,000 CD-quality songs in a super portable design that fits in the pocket.
Apple released iTunes for Windows in April 2003, with support for Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Introduced with the new iPod Shuffle, this version of iTunes can automatically convert higher-bitrate songs to 128kbit/s AAC.
Apple also introduced the iTunes Music Store in 2003. It allowed users to buy and download songs, with 200,000 tracks available in its launch. During the first week, customers bought more than a million songs. The music store made iTunes an avenue for legally buying and downloading music. Purchased music was protected by FairPlay, which makes use of digital rights management.
In 2004, Apple introduced Party Shuffle on iTunes, which selected tracks to play randomly from the library. It also allows users to press a button to skip the current song and play the next. This feature was later renamed “iTunes DJ” before being discontinued. It was then replaced by a more straightforward “Up Next” feature that lost some of the iTunes DJ’s functionality.
Apple expanded the core features of iTunes in 2005 by adding support for podcasts, e-books, digital video, and mobile apps downloaded or bought from the iOS App Store. During the launch, Apple offered popular shows from the ABC network like Desperate Housewives and some Disney Channel series like The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and That’s So Raven. Steve Jobs stated that they were doing for video what they did for music – making it easy to purchase, download, and play on the computer and the iPod.
Apple introduced games, gapless playback, and more when iTunes was updated in 2006. This time, Apple also released its first iPhone, and iTunes now supports iPod Classic, Touch, Shuffle, Nano, and iPhone. After this, the software became more and more complicated, and criticisms became more common as it evolved from being a music player to a multimedia platform.
iTunes U was introduced in May 2007 via the iTunes Store, which delivers university lectures from the top colleges in the US.
In 2008, Apple and other fil studios introduced iTunes Digital Copy, a feature on some Blue-ray discs, and select DVDs that allow digital copy on iTunes and associated media players. That year, Apple also introduced “Genius” in iTunes, which can automatically generate a playlist of songs from the user’s library that goes together. It also suggests some purchases that will go well with a user’s library. The feature was updated in 2009 to offer Genius Mixes, which created playlists based on specific music genres.
iTunes was also used to activate early iPhone models. The original iPhone needed the app for activation and for updating mobile apps, until the release of iOS 5 in 2011. Newer iOS devices are less reliant on iTunes for the device to function, though it can still be used for backing up contents of mobile devices and for sharing files with personal computers.
Apple introduced native mobile apps for iOS in July 2008. A dedicated App Store application served as a storefront for purchasing, browsing, and managing applications. Meanwhile, iTunes on computers offered a dedicated section for apps rather than a separate app. In September 2017, this was revamped, removing the App Store section in the process. However, the following month, Apple released a new version of iTunes that retains the app store.
Apple also provided support for 64-bit versions of Windows in January 2008. Apple did not support the 64-bit versions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 before then. An update added Genius playlists, grid view, and a default visualizer for Windows iTunes.
In 2010, Apple released the iPad tablet with a new app called iBooks (now known as Apple Books). This app allowed users to purchase e-books from the iTunes store, manage it, and transfer the content to the iPad.
That same year, Apple unveiled its iTunes 10 that integrates iTunes Ping, a social network for music that adds a social factor to the iTunes experience. It had features similar to Facebook, including profiles and the ability to follow users. However, users pointed out that it was difficult to use. Ping was discontinued in September 2012 and was replaced with an increased Twitter and Facebook integration.
In 2011, Apple announced iTunes in the Cloud, in which music purchases were stored on the servers and made available for downloading on new devices. The company also introduced iTunes Match that can upload content to Apple’s servers, change the quality, and make it available to other devices.
Along with the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini release, Apple also released iTunes 11 with a new user interface and a tighter integration with iCloud. The users’ libraries now include media they have stored in their iCloud account and any media unique to the device they are using. Stored files in the cloud don’t need to be downloaded before it can be played, making it accessible without increased disk usage.
In 2014, Apple redesigned the icon and interface of iTunes again with iTunes 12. With this, a new widget for a notification center allows the user to see what’s playing, skip, and even buy songs from the iTunes radio right there in the notification center. iTunes also allowed and encouraged the sale of single songs so that users don’t need to spend much on more expensive albums. This ended the Album era in pop music.
iTunes Radio was released in 2013, integrating the Kerbango Internet radio tuner service. In 2015, Apple music was released and subsequently rebranded iTunes Radio into Beats 1, which is a radio station that accompanies Apple music.
In 2017, iTunes version 12.7 moved iTunes U as part of the Podcasts app. In 2018, iTunes 12 was launched for Windows 10.
Across the internet, the collective consensus was that Apple put too many features into iTunes, but none of them worked very well. It offered a bloated user experience after Apple adopted an all-encompassing feature-set, rather than sticking to its original purpose. Also, streaming media services surpassed iTunes by mid- to late-2010s, as they started to generate more revenue. Customers would rather stream music for free or by monthly subscription than buy music.
In 2019, iTunes in macOS Catalina was replaced by separate apps, such as Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. iTunes continues to be available on Windows and Mac OS before Catalina. That year, the company also announced that they would no longer include iTunes with their future Mac computer releases. In 2020, Apple announced that iTunes U would be discontinued by the end of 2021.
Today, iTunes is no longer the hub it was once. Physical music sales even overtook iTunes in 2019. Podcasts and e-books can be downloaded directly to devices and no longer needs a link with the software, which iTunes was famous for providing.