Macos

The Break Up of iTunes, a musician’s perspective

Piggybacking off of yesterday’s post, there was a rumor earlier in the month that the next wave of iOS apps to come to the Mac are Apple’s very own media apps.

9to5mac.com - Next major macOS version will include standalone Music, Podcasts, and TV apps, Books app gets major redesign | Guilherme Rambo:

Fellow developer Steve Troughton-Smith recently expressed confidence about some evidence found indicating that Apple is working on new Music, Podcasts, and perhaps Books apps for macOS, to join the new TV app.

I’ve been able to independently confirm that this is true. On top of that, I’ve been able to confirm with sources familiar with the development of the next major version of macOS – likely 10.15 – that the system will include standalone Music, Podcasts, and TV apps, but it will also include a major redesign of the Books app. We also got an exclusive look at the icons for the new Podcasts and TV apps on macOS.

I have been arguing that iTunes should be broken up into separate apps on the Mac for years. As a musician and teacher who is an absolute iTunes power user, and who depends on music library management tools, I thought it was worth digging into the implications of this a little bit.

If you are a podcast listener, and have room in your diet for some shows that discuss Apple technology, there was an astoundingly good conversation about this topic on last week’s episodes of Upgrade and ATP. Both shows discuss not only the implications for the future of iTunes, but for the very nature of the Mac itself.

I am so excited for the TV app and the Podcast app to get their own attention. They have been much needed for a long time. I imagine Podcasts will be solid out of the gate. I will kind of miss the current TV app icon on iOS and the Apple TV but I understand that Apple needs to brand it with their logo since it is going to be coming to third party TVs and Amazon Fire products this fall with the launch of their new TV service. I don’t know how a Books app based on the iOS version would work with my imported PDF book library, but it is already wildly inconsistent between iOS and macOS so I cannot imagine it could get any worse.

iTunes is a place that I have traditionally relied heavily upon to organize my music library, recordings of my ensemble, and video performances of my concerts. I detail my entire music and video workflows in my book, Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers.

iTunes is the only app that allows me to store my personal library alongside a streaming music library, and sync it across multiple devices. This is what has set it apart from Spotify for me over the past few years. iTunes also has some great video organization tools. For years now, I have organized all video of my school ensemble’s live performance (amongst numerous other musical performances and home video) into the video section of iTunes, and then pointed a Plex server towards the folder of files so that I can stream them from my Apple TV and iOS devices on the go.

If the new Music and TV apps are just like their iOS counterparts, there are a whole lot of features I depend on that could potentially get ditched. Here are a few of them...

-Importing my own music. The iOS version of music can’t even import a song. That’s right! If I buy an album on Bandcamp, or take an audio file of a professional band performing a tune my ensemble is working on, I can drag them right into iTunes on my Mac, and they will sync to my mobile devices over Apple Music Library. I would imagine Apple has to have at least figured this one out for iOS if they are going to ship this app on the Mac in the fall.

-Metadata control. It would be a sad day if I could not press the info button on a song, add my own comments, rating, and adjustments to the title, album name, etc.

-Smart Playlists. Jazz and classical recordings are notoriously difficult to manage in iTunes because of how complex their metadata is. In addition to editing artist and album information in these recordings, I have spent some time adding extra info to the comments section of my songs and then creating smart playlists to filter them. If Miles Davis is tagged in every recording he sat in on, you can make playlists like ‘Songs Miles Soloed On Between 1961-75.’

-Adding video. QuickTime (much like Preview) is an app that exists only on the Mac, because it is natively built into iOS whenever you tap a media file (or PDF in the case of Preview). Apple never had a dedicated app for managing video (although there is the awkward iMovie Library feature which has an arbitrary file limit). That said, iTunes is a pretty great utility for this purpose. I would hate to loose its video management features, even though they were never on iOS to begin with. The TV app is looking more and more like it is built to fulfill Apple’s TV strategy, which is to aggregate as much TV and Movie content from as many providers as possible, into a unified entertainment service. Don’t get my wrong, I am excited, I just don’t see myself using it to organize recordings of my band concerts.

Presumably iTunes isn’t going anywhere any time soon. For these legacy features, and including the need to sync older iOS devices to a Mac, I imagine it will still come on the Mac, buried in the Utilities folder, for years to come. Hopefully, users will still be able to do actions like I listed above in iTunes, and enjoy the benefit of them in the new Music app.

In conclusion, I remain highly cynical about this transition because Apple does not seem interested in making good apps in recent years. Conversely, I am enthusiastic about the long term benefit. If Apple developers are writing code for just one version of their apps instead of two, it is more likely that iOS versions of software will get elevated. That is exciting, even if it means that the Mac apps cannot do all of the same stuff they could always do at first. Coupled with rumors that Apple is going to release an ARM based Mac in the near future, I would like to believe that years down the road, we will be getting closer to a shared app platform between all Apple devices, with feature parity, and less distinction between input devices and which hardware its running on.

Music education apps on iOS that I would love to see come to the Mac

From Macworld...

iOS apps that need to be on the Mac | Macworld:

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who has a great track record of reporting Apple scoops, wrote a few months ago that Apple was working on a new approach to app development that would let developers “design a single application that works with a touchscreen or mouse and trackpad depending on whether it’s running on the iPhone and iPad operating system or on Mac hardware.”

Accepting that Apple could change direction at any time and that this project—code-named Marzipan—might not even be announced this year, it’s an intriguing possibility. Obviously iOS has a much more thriving app store than the one on the Mac, so if Apple could make it easier for iOS developers to deploy their apps on the Mac, it might help the platform thrive. Merging the approach to developing apps on Apple’s two platforms also may make sense in light of the report that Apple may be replacing Intel processors with Apple-designed ARM processors in future Macs.

A lot of rumors and speculation, to be sure. But let’s go back to the root premise of this entire story: The Mac could be improved if it was much easier for iOS developers to bring their apps over. Which got me thinking, what iOS apps do I use today that I wish were on my Mac?

I have been giving this a lot of thought since reading Bloomberg's report. I think this is a big deal. In music education, a lot of useful apps are iOS only. I would die to have the utility of some of them on my Mac. Here are a few examples.

Tonal Energy Tuner: This may be my most used rehearsal tool in the band room. I constantly have a drone and or a metronome running in the background while my students play. The problem is that my Mac is my device that is usually plugged into the mixer at the front of the band room. I would be able to much more efficiently manage TE alongside my Keynote slides and iTunes library if it were piping audio through the same speakers and had support for tactile keyboard shortcuts.

forScore: forScore is one of the only apps I use exclusively on iPad. The form factor of the tablet is perfectly suited to it. That being said, there would be times where it would be easier to manage files in bulk if there was a version for Mac that I could open up and drag stuff into. This, of course, would assume that a forScore library would sync across devices. This is something it currently cannot do (which is good because it is one of the only things keeping me from buying a second, smaller iPad).

Tempo and Tempo Advance: There is a shortage of good metronomes on macOS. There are a lot of good ones on iOS. For the same reason that Tonal Energy would rock on a Mac, so would Tempo. And nothing like Tempo Advance exists on Mac.

I would imagine that Marzipan could work the other way around, making Mac apps easier to develop for iOS. If this were the case, I could do an entire second blog post on Mac apps I would love to see on iOS. Logic Pro, are you out there?

iWork Updates Bring Professionally Drawn Artwork, New View Options, and More

iWork Updates Bring Professionally Drawn Artwork, New View Options, and More:

Today Apple released updates for its entire iWork suite across iOS and macOS. Pages, Keynote, and Numbers each received several improvements, some of which are shared and others of which are unique to certain apps.

The most significant update found across all three apps is that over 500 professionally drawn shapes have been added for use. These shapes span a variety of categories, including: Objects, Animals, Nature, Food, Symbols, Education, Places, Activities, Transportation, Arts, People, and Work.

So much to love here. iWork apps have received some hate from die hard Office users over the years but feature updates like this one remind me what I love about Apple apps. They are just so nice. I can see myself using these new shapes, much like I use many of the Keynote templates for my presentations, on a regular basis to make my documents more rich, beautiful, and professional.

Syncing Feeling

Jason Snell over at sixcolors.com describes a few grievances with a new feature in macOS Sierra that syncs the contents of your Mac's Desktop and Documents folder across all of your devices and optimizes storage on the device by moving files that have not been opened recently to the cloud. In particular, there are problems with syncing package files associated with professional software, even including Apple's own Logic and Final Cut Pro!

Syncing feeling: iCloud Drive in macOS Sierra:

With any luck, Apple’s hot on the case of fixing the bugs. Perhaps the teams in charge of Apple’s pro apps are working on coordinating project files a bit more aggressively. And I suspect that I might be a little responsible for this new Apple tech note, which suggests that if you’re using a pro app, you should move your projects out of synced folders or turn off Optimize Mac Storage.

Yep, that’s Apple saying that people who use pro apps should just turn off or avoid using a major new feature of macOS Sierra.

Unfortuantely, all to many signs today point to the fact that Apple is

a. not thinking about the pro user.

and

b. releasing buggy updates to their cloud services that create caution amongst users as to whether or not they should trust iCloud with their data.