Saturday, November 19, 2011

iTunes vs. Amazon Fire

I've been intrigued by Amazon's Silk browser and associated Fire product. In the process of talking about it on Twitter and Facebook, one of the software industry's brighter individuals (and former Netscape/Mozilla colleague of mine), Chris Saari, has been asking me good, hard, questions about my thoughts/experiences/impressions/criticisms. He's working on Amazon's A2Z. He got me thinking, and this post is a result of that. He asked "what are the specific features in iTunes that you use?" I took the liberty of translating that into "why do I feel I can't leave iTunes?"

In short, the answer is that iTunes pervades my media consumption life; across devices.


With the advent of iCloud/spotify/rdio/pandora/etc things are changing of course.

I have several thousand dollars invested in iTunes library content (music, tv shows, movies), so part of it is wanting to NOT lose that investment. I'd say that's probably only a small part of it though.

A lot of it is indeed proprietary lock-in stuff. I actually do use voice control/siri to play music on a regular basis... "play artist wombats" on my iphone for example.

I use airplay regularly. I think that's iTunes only.

Toolchain stuff/workflow stuff also has me burned in. I use iMovie each year to build a family video. it "seamlessly" integrates with iphoto/itunes for content creation, and then exports to itunes for sync'ing to appletv and my ios devices. All those nice little integration points are a big deal and add up.

It's a pretty heavy toolchain issue for me. whenever I deviate, life is good for a few days/weeks, then suddenly I go to do something and I can't (or it will take a few more clicks and a new understanding of someone else's UI metaphor set, and I balk and just revert back to itunes' way).

My car stereo knows how to drive itunes on an ios device. I've learned all my car's shortcuts to control basic iTunes manipulation.

Another big one these days for me is offline support. I travel a lot and also spend a fair amount of time in the mountains. In those two cases, I don't have access to network connections and therefore, "streaming" solutions fall down. In a lot of ways I just view itunes as a local-disk sync'ing tool.

There's a big exception; Sonos. 90% of the music I listen to on my home Sonos system is streaming; pandora, rdio, spotify (in that order). pandora when I want to "listen to the radio," rdio when I want to listen to what my cool friends are listening to, and spotify when, in that one in a million random moment when I happen to recall the artist/song I want to be listening to.

My kids know how to drive iTunes (movies on an airplane is a simple scenario that we run into a lot), and that matters a lot. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to give a kid what what they want in a frustrating moment (the reality of traveling w/ children) and either you or they are fumbling with a new UI.

The downsides to iTunes are obviously real. The lockin can be painful, and I often feel like I can't leverage new cool stuff. It doesn't support for 1080i/p HD movies anymore. Movie title availability (and sometimes music) sucks (always). It doesn't support "channels" like Pandora. It doesn't support "heavy rotation" stuff like rdio.

It's hard for me to imagine a world in which I move off of iTunes.