Wednesday, April 10, 2019

macOS 10.15 to Break Up iTunes

Guilherme Rambo (MacRumors):

The new Music, Podcasts, and TV apps will be made using Marzipan, Apple’s new technology designed to facilitate the porting of iPad apps to the Mac without too many code changes. It’s not clear whether the redesigned Apple Books app will also be made using the technology, but given that the redesign came to iOS first and its usage for the other apps, it’s likely that this new Books app will also be using UIKit.

With the standalone versions of Apple’s media apps coming to the Mac, it’s natural to ask: what about iTunes in macOS 10.15? According to sources, the next major version of macOS will still include the iTunes app. Since Apple doesn’t have a new solution for manually syncing devices such as old iPods and iPhones with the Mac, it’s natural to keep iTunes around a little longer.

I’m not looking forward to this because, while I agree that iTunes needs work, I don’t have confidence that Apple will preserve its functionality (or even its desktop-optimized design) in the new apps. I expect that iTunes will remain the only way to sync music that you didn’t buy from the iTunes Store. Apple’s track record is to remove features from AirPort Utility and QuickTime Player 7 and let the dead versions hang around for years until eventually sunsetting them, without ever reimplementing what was lost.

John Gruber:

Nothing surprising here, but it leaves the $64,000 question unanswered: will these apps be more like dumbed-down iPad apps on the Mac, or more like smartened-up Mac apps on the iPad?

Nick Heer:

The unrequited optimist in me is imagining a next generation of cross-platform app that feels completely platform native no matter where it’s running. But I have also used Music on the iPad and it’s not as good as its iPhone sibling — and those are just different versions of the same app on the same platform.


And, as I have no plans to stop using my local music collection and manually syncing a subset of it to my iPhone, I am wary of what this could mean for my stubborn situation over the long term.

Damien Petrilli:

Some are happy about killing iTunes but it’s the only way to load personal stuff on iOS devices so far, do local backups, manage music, avoid cloud, etc.

If marzipan Apps just replace the Apple services and kill this technical part it’s going to be a mess.

Andrew Pontious:

Really not looking forward to Apple’s cheery full-court press (echoed by many online pundits) about how great their new shitty converted iOS apps are for the Mac.

For me, this is proof of further decline of Mac, not improvement.

Colin Cornaby:

I hope with the amount Apple is relying on Marzipan, they fix issues like Marzipan apps rendering at the wrong resolution for compatibility reasons. It makes the text on non-Retina displays really awful and I can’t imagine it helps with in app graphics.

I’m also not exactly a fan of the possible performance issues of Marzipan apps all being boxed inside of their own runtime-ish thing.

Previously: Apple to Target Combining iPhone, iPad, and Mac Apps by 2021.

Update (2019-04-11): Colin Cornaby:

“The Mac experience won’t be worse because of Marzipan” ”Also now we’re going to ship a bunch of redundant audio players because we can’t get our act together on feature sets.”

If they booted all the video features out of iTunes into the TV app, that would help in straightening out iTunes. But I’m guessing they might be stuck on transitioning that portion of the iTunes library on disk to TV, and what to do for Windows.

Podcasts and Music being separate apps still baffles me on the Mac. They seem like complimentary functions and I’d rather have a single audio player UI, and not have two icons in my dock/applications. And I’m never listening to music and playing a podcast at the same time.


We will never correct from being app-centric to data-centric soon enough. So much damage has been done because we didn’t manage to solve the filesystem UX problems!!

Dan Masters:

Instead of revamping & maintaining the Truck App, they’re taking it all and just throwing it away. iTunes is only terrible because they’ve neglected it.


This week, I’ve been using iTunes to manage my extensive music library. Its performance has become shocking. But it’s still the most powerful, versatile music library app I’ve ever used.

Abandoning iTunes for Apple Music is equivalent to forcing people to use Excel Mobile on Mac


Of course, the most likely scenario is that marzipanOS Music will just be a straight port of the iPad app.

If you need any of this “legacy cruft”, you’ll need to use the neglected iTunes app (which will turn into abandonware).

Josh Marshall:

What if Apple take the same road they have with photos? Provide the solution for the 95% of users in their own apps. Then provide access into the library for 3rd party apps to handle importing, metadata+art editing, and playlist creation.

Update (2019-04-15): Dan Moren:

While Smart Playlists created in iTunes sync to iOS via iCloud, there’s no way to natively create them on iOS devices. And that’s a shame, because although Apple has tried to improve its algorithms in Apple Music to surface new songs you might like, those playlists and stations pull from the whole realm of available music, rather than the music you’ve self-selected into your own library. They’re much more powerful than static playlists and allow users a lot more control over their listening habits. It would be a shame if a new Music app on the Mac did away with them.

Marco Arment:

I’m particularly proud of the iTunes-breakup segment on this week’s @atpfm. If you love computers that empower you to be a power user, give this a listen (start at 30:12, runs about an hour)

Jason Snell:

If you’re expecting the new Mac apps to just be mirrors of their iOS counterparts, you might be pleasantly surprised. Apple has the opportunity to work on the iOS apps to make them a little more functional — and have that work come across to macOS at the same time. The iOS apps lack a lot of the functionality of iTunes, and while replicating every iTunes feature is not in the cards (probably ever), it’s hard to believe that Apple won’t attempt to upgrade the apps as it brings them across to the Mac.


It would also be helpful if Apple lets Music add audio files to the library, a feature that iTunes has had since Day 1 and that has never been available on iOS. If you’ve ever bought an indie album via Bandcamp on an iPad, only to receive a Zip archive in return, you’ve run into this roadblock. While the Music app will always primarily be an interface for Apple Music, letting users import audio files is a necessary addition. (The same should be said for adding video files to the TV app.)

Kirk McElhearn:

Rumors of Apple dismantling iTunes are almost as old as the software itself. I can remember people clamoring for its destruction back when Apple added video management to the app, claiming that since it's called iTunes, it shouldn't manage anything but music.

Update (2019-04-16): Colin Cornaby:

My favorite Marzipan “bug” is how it doesn’t understand mouse drags. Really frustrating to use home.

My guess is it’s still the underlying hold-then-drag gesture recognizer that iOS uses, and they don’t want to break apps by automatically getting rid of the hold.

This has existed since the initial betas and I was thinking about tweeting about it then but I said “Well you’re not supposed to share beta screenshots and I’m sure it will be fixed by final” and guess what jokes on me.

Update (2019-05-09): Mark Gurman:

The Mac Podcasts app will be a ported iPad app (Marzipan), but the Music and TV apps will likely be true Mac apps.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

As @_inside revealed it on Stacktrace, I can finally repeat here: the Music app on macOS 10.15 is indeed not a UIKit app, but is a stripped-down and refactored version of iTunes. Including (last I heard) disc burning, smart playlists, & device management

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Just got offered another free trial for Apple Music. Huge "Start Trial" button, tiny "not now" button in the corner. No way as far as I can tell to to never see it again. Since Apple Music the Music app (these completely generic names are annoying) has been much worse. iTunes on the Mac is full of bloat, but it does an excellent job of playing and organizing my music. The Music app is an Apple Music app first and a local music app second. Even if this is the perfect vision of what a marzipan app can be I still expect it to just be a crappy wrapper for Apple Music. My expectation is it will be a crappy marzipan app, that is also a crappy wrapper for Apple Music.

Apple is is trying its best to become a services company, not a software company. Somehow they seem to be way worse at their jobs now that they are one of the richest companies in the world. People always talk about the iPhone making most the revenue so it should get all of the attention. There is no excuse for that. Apple makes significantly more money from the Mac than it did 15 years ago but it seems to spend significantly less time and money on it. It is completely a mismanagement issue. Tim Cook may have not started the process, but he is ruining the Mac.

This is like watching cancer take over someone's body and kill them slowly from the inside-out.

Even under the most optimistic scenarios, I can't see a situation where bringing iOS apps to the Mac won't make things worse. Is anyone other than Steve Troughton-Smith looking forward to this upcoming train wreck? Apple has already shown us what to expect with the terrible Marzipan apps we have now -- especially News, which is one of the most confusing and poorly implemented apps I've ever seen on the Mac. It reminds me of something I'd see on Windows or a bad Java port. As one example, why can't I right-click on a magazine and select "Add to My Magazines"? The entire process to add a magazine to My Magazines in News+ was so obtuse (I tried everything I could think of) that I had to Google it. And even the solution from the likes of Macworld didn't work with the magazines that use PDF format instead of the Apple News Format. Finally, after much poking around in frustration, I figured out that the solution is to go to any article in the magazine and then File - Follow Channel. Ok that makes total sense! "Follow Channel" = "My Magazines". WTF Apple ?!?

I hate the bloat that iTunes has become, but if the new apps don't provide a way to at least edit the metadata of my local music collection (30,000 songs) and continue to use iTunes Match, I'm done. These are ESSENTIAL features for me since a large part of my collection is live shows and indie music that is out of print and not on streaming services. I have nothing against the streaming services, I currently pay for 3 of them (!), but they are NOT a replacement for personal music collections of people who truly love music. Sure, 90% of people might not care because everything they listen to is on Apple Music streaming. But doesn't Apple care about the 10% anymore? (not just music, but anything people passionately use the Mac to do) Weren't we the 10% that helped keep them afloat all those years in the 90s?

Nothing Apple has done in the past few years has made me truly think "Wow!" anymore. But there has been PLENTY to make me think "Oh, shit..."

@Ben I’m sure you have nothing to worry about with respect to your collection because music has always been at the heart of Apple. It’s deep in their DNA.

@Michael — is it a sign of how bad things have become at Apple that I can't tell if you're being serious or sarcastic?


I don't think I've ever felt dread about an upcoming WWDC.

It'd be *chef's kiss* if Apple introduces an amazing hardware lineup but announces a slate of poison pills for macOS.

I think a sense of dread is for the upcoming WWDC is right on. Marzipan is just a terrible idea terribly executed.

Metadata is the main worry as is AppleScript support (unless a successor is announced at WWDC and heavily embraced). A big worry as well is the apparently move to single window. Not that big a deal in iTunes which arguably has been for many years now (unfortunately - I can't be the only one who missed the multi window abilities in the past).

With Books though it's a bit more of a worry. The idea of a sidepane while you have the book open doesn't sound nice. While the iWork apps more or less followed the iOS versions when the Mac versions were rewritten, Apple did prioritize getting AppleScript working. (Even though it took a few months) It also works fine in multi window mode even if the tool panes sadly can't be disconnected from the document window. However in Books this sounds like it could be a disaster. Books has some great features - syncing 3rd party ePub via iCloud is awesome. Not so awesome is it's lousy metadata handling especially given how great it was when books were in iTunes. Overall the rewrite of Books scares me the most since its so much better than Kindle. I buy my books on Kindle most of the time (since many books aren't available from Apple - particularly technical ones) and convert them to ePub to store and read in Books. The note taking and highlighting I vastly prefer in Books as well.

One thing not mentioned is that right now iTunes → iOS TV sucks. Most of the time you can't access your movies or TV shows if they're rips rather than bought via Apple. If you have more than a 100 or so videos you get the beachball of death in iOS. Which is stupid since the Apple TV works fine with it. However I ripped all my hundreds of DVDs and Blurays I've collected over the years when hard drives got big enough. Plex sucks, particularly with its metadata handling and editing. While iTunes is a shadow of itself it's vastly better than the alternatives (especially when paired with apps like Subler).

Can you imagine a rewritten Books app with the awful font rendering we have in Marzipan right now? I understand the need for dogfooding and the advantages of unified codebases but Apple is now rewriting mature first-party apps with an objectively suboptimal UI framework. It’s astonishing. Everything they say about their commitment to the Mac rings hollow when they can’t even bother to maintain Mac-native software. I too feel a sense of dread about this year’s WWDC; I can only hope my fears don’t come to pass.

My fears are also that metadata editing will disappear, local music playback will disappear. And syncing local data to iPhones will never migrate to the new app.

I wish they'd leave old iTunes functionality alone, and make separate apps for Apple Music, Podcasts, Books and other non-local-music stuff.
But somehow it's hard to imagine. There was iSync, that could be resurrected and used to sync all old devices.

It's a bit unfair to judge the Marzipan which will be available in a couple of months with what was used last year. They've had a full year to bring more things to maturity and surely will. The bigger issue is less whether it gets UIKit right than what macOS features it implements and more importantly uses. You can see that with the Home app that's the most frustrating of the existing Marzipan apps. They need to figure out how to do a swipe type function on macOS.

I miss iSync. Seems to have been killed within three years of iPhone launch solely because the iPhone didn't use it and Apple no longer wanted to support third party devices. Honestly, if Snow Leopard wasn't just a giant service pack to Leopard, I'm guessing iSync would have been killed in Snow Leopard instead of Lion. Also see Bluetooth phone services for third party phones (not just iSync, sending SMS and the like also worked) which was likewise killed. Don't forget third party music player support in iTunes, once the iPod was launched, the existing devices stayed in but as far as I know, that list of supported third party devices was never updated.

I am sympathetic to fixing iTunes but it seems like the best way to do so is to make the content purchasing/renting part belong to separate apps and revert iTunes back to local media support for Macs and local media device syncing to iOS. I remember when people wanted Apple to update their design language circa iOS 6 and Mac OS 10.7. With great anticipation I awaited then mess that came after. iOS and Mac OS had issues but the "fix" from Apple was not the proper solution. I would be concerned that the fix for iTunes will mirror the mentioned prior failures. Change for change, bad. Change to improve, good.

I am not a fan of iTunes, but it is a completely different level than I can't fathom a derived iTunes 'successor' to ever come close to iTunes capabilities. And nothing about the software coming out of Apple lately inspires me to reconsider.

Presuming this were the beginning of the end for iTunes – what does that mean for iTunes on Windows? No Marzipan on Windows. Will macOS end up with an inferior Apple-related music experience than Windows? Anecdotally, from Mac to Windows switchers, iTunes on Windows is actually quite decent.

I vaguely recall reading wishes for a "UIKit-ification" of AppKit, and I kind of wished for something like that, too. In a sense, Marzipan might be something not entirely unlike that. Bringing along a "iOS-ification" of macOS. Careful what we wish for?

Of course it's all just hypothesizing about a very-much-pre-release technology and an unannounced set of apps.

But I received a Plex lifetime premium thingy offer earlier in the week. Exquisite timing. 😆

Count me too as someone dreading WWDC!

I'm starting to miss Apple just neglecting the Mac, now they seem to be actively butchering it! :(

[…] Here’s Michael Tsai on the matter: […]

I am a strong proponent of separate apps for separate functions, thus local music app can be similar to early versions of iTunes.
iSync for actually syncing devices connected via wires or bluetooth (or wi-fi locally)
Podcasts, Apple Music, Books and Movies are all driven very different content, so there is little benefit to combine them into one app.
They can be well integrated and linked, but stay as a separate entities. Then a smaller teams can keep them all up to date

A good ATP discussion on this coming disaster:

@Dmitri well OK, yes, as long as I can mass-download podcasts just like I can do now, and boost the volume level in the metadata dialog, just as I do now. For all the advocacy for separate apps, it's important IMO to remember the actual benefits of a monolithic design. IMO, the real issue is not splitting up media types but rather splitting the network, renderer and UI up into separate bits that communicate independently and do not need to be all running simultaneously. Imagine, if you will, a Mac that can act as a privileged AirPlay target while it is locked, or a UI application for talking to other installations as a substitute for the remote control, or a shared server that can be worked upon by multiple copies of the media applications for shared storage. But now I am of course dreaming great dreams ...

What will actually happen, I am sure, is what we all fear will happen. And because the accessibility of Marzipan apps is already bloody awful, this will just drive me into the waiting arms of the enemy. The Books app, itself inspired by iOS, is already terrible--can you imagine the crippling limitations imposed both by the requirement to shoebox all the other apps in the fashion of iBooks, and to run them under Marzipan? My God, it's a horrible thought.

Lanny Heidbreder

Jason Snell is high as a kite.

“Jason Snell is high as a kite.”

Yep. While Apple might make a few changes to the iOS apps, their track record for the past several years (especially — but not exclusively — post-Steve) says otherwise. I’m tired of their apps getting dumbed down, features removed for no good reason, major bugs unfixed for eternity... how can a nearly trillion dollar company not walk and chew gum at the same time? How is their iOS hardware so great, but their software sucks? (Plus the MBP keyboard, removal of common ports, useless touchbar...)

It’s time to start investigating whether or not Linux has come far enough to meet my needs... and I’ve been using Macs since before most current Mac users were even born. Apple is just not serving power users anymore.

@Ben G
Linux might meet your needs, but it could not meet them as well. I know, I know, hardly helpful advice. While I don't think Mac OS X "just works" (my dad's a web developer and he has to run a package manager to get all his open source tools working on his Mac, so…) there is something to picking a platform that is hardware and software coupled together. It can reduce friction. However, I found myself butting against Apple's odd neutering of their best features, I finally just gave up. You are clearly at this point as well. Please don't let me stop you from researching modern Linux and in fact, I fully encourage such exploration.

My own journey to Linux actually began in October 2004, which is when Ubuntu first launched. I found Ubuntu just easy enough to transition me to Linux, at least part of the time. I dabbled with Linux off and on for the next several years, mostly Ubuntu but not always, yet I always kept Mac OS around too. First a hodgepodge selection of 68K Macs, PowerPC Macs running Mac OS 9 and PowerPC Macs running OS X. After Apple switched to Intel, I slowly transitioned into mostly Intel Mac use with a single PowerPC system laying around for older software that ran on OS X, but didn't run particularly well on Rosetta, plus I kept access to even older apps with Classic.

Growing weary of Apple hardware, even back in 2010-2011, I started using non Mac hardware to run Mac OS. Which was great for a while until Lion came out and my cheap 32bit hardware couldn't run it. I eventually transitioned back to a mix of Mac OS on actual Mac hardware and Linux on the non Mac hardware. A tipping point arrived and I plunged all in for personal use and slowly weaned my family from Mac OS too, largely not wanting to support the old, creaky version of OS X compatible with older Mac hardware. While it seems like the full transition only took a couple years, realistically the transition went on for about 11 years. 2004-2015.

While I don't agree with the premise that Pop!_OS is the first "real" version of desktop Linux, I found this gentleman's take on transitioning to Linux to be interesting. He seemed to be a Linux for servers and Mac OS or Windows for desktops type, but he seems pretty happy with his Linux workstation.!_OS__The_first_real_Linux_desktop.html

I run a lot of Antergos these days with a single Ubuntu based system, but there are a plethora of other systems to try. The big ones are Ubuntu (Pop!_OS and Mint being the other two big forks of Ubuntu), Debian, Fedora, Suse, and Arch (Antergos is my preferred Arch based distro since it's akin to how Ubuntu attempted to humanize Debian back in the day).

I don't disagree. I think a well designed suite of apps to handle these things would be just fine. I always figured Apple shoved everything into iTunes so they could more easily get everything over to Windows users. Excepting iTunes, pretty much every other Apple app bombed on Windows. Not that there were many. To be fair.

[…] is one reason I’m skeptical about the iTunes breakup. Sure, it sounds great to have a powerful backend provided by Apple. The first-party app can be […]

[…] Previously: macOS 10.15 to Break Up iTunes. […]

[…] macOS 10.15 to Break Up iTunes […]

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