There’s been speculation for years that Apple would eventually phase out its monolithic iTunes media management app on the Mac in favour of a set of Mac apps that would mirror their more siloed and content-specific iOS counterparts. However, while Apple gradually pared down iTunes over the years, first splitting iBooks out into its own standalone Mac app, and later following that up by stripping out all support for the App Store, the core iTunes app kept humming along as the hub for audiovisual content, from music and podcasts to movies and TV shows.
With Apple expected to begin unifying its iOS and macOS development environments with macOS 10.15 this fall, however, rumours appeared last month that the company was in fact working on standalone Music and Podcast apps to join the TV app that the company is preparing in order to bring its Apple TV+ service to the Mac, breaking up the core iTunes app.
This news naturally alarmed many iTunes power users, who feared a watered-down version of the Music app that would borrow most of its code and features from the iPhone and iPad, pushing users to Apple Music and eliminating the advanced media management features that iTunes fans had come to rely on. While the reports suggested that iTunes itself wouldn’t be disappearing right away, it seemed likely that it would simply be kept on life support, getting little attention until Apple could get away with discontinuing it entirely.
There may be a ray of hope for those power users, however, with a new report by 9to5Mac’s Guilherme Rambo revealing that sources have said that Apple has no plans to abandon the iTunes model in building its new Music app.
In fact, it appears that the rumours of iTunes’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. The assumption that the Music app would be built on Apple’s “Marzipan” framework and ported from the iOS version, was in fact untrue. According to Rambo’s sources, while Apple is very much working on a standalone Music app, it’s going to be a core macOS app that’s based off of iTunes, and not an anemic port of its iOS counterpart. The new Music app is expected to include “many of the advanced features that iTunes users are accustomed to,” specifically things like smart playlists, advanced library management, and direct sync with iPods and iOS devices. In fact, even support for reading and burning CDs will still be in there.
While the shift into standalone apps does represent the break-up of iTunes, it doesn’t represent the end of iTunes, and it’s really just the final step in a process that’s been going on since Apple first started to take iTunes apart with the move of iBooks into its own app back in 2013, followed by the elimination of the App Store in 2017. Since that time, iTunes has been focused solely on music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks. Now, with the new Music app, Apple will effectively be returning to its roots with a new, music-only version of iTunes. Although it sounds like it’s still being rewritten from the ground up as a whole new app, considering how bloated and convoluted iTunes’ code base has gotten over the years, we think this is a good thing, as long as Apple doesn’t dumb it down in the process.
It’s unknown whether the legacy version of iTunes will still be included with macOS 10.15, but it also seems likely that it will still be kept around as a separate download for at least a couple more years, until macOS evolves to the point where it’s simply no longer compatible. It’s also unclear whether Apple will be releasing the new Music app for Windows, or whether Windows users will be expected to simply continue using iTunes, but it’s worth noting that the Windows version of iTunes is still used to manage iBooks, a feature that was removed from the Mac version six years ago.