The Mystery of iTunes, Pages, and Numbers

Why are some Apple programs either terrible or irrelevant?

November 4, 2014

We tend to think that Apple is synonymous with excellence. The Apple brand is valued at $118 billion, making the Apple brand the world’s most valuable.  Google’s brand is valued at $107 billion, Coca Cola at $81 billion, and Microsoft at $61 billion.

Does Apple’s brand star power blind us to Apple’s flaws?

Beyond the Apple OS, as OS X has been rock solid and light years ahead of Windows for a few years now, what can we say about Apple’s software?  Maybe not too much.

Let’s take iTunes.  Have you tried to manage your music and media lately in iTunes 12?  Maybe not, as many of us have switched to renting our music from Spotify or Pandora.  But if you have spent some time with iTunes lately you might be wondering what Apple’s software designers are thinking.   

This weekend I spent some time downloading music, as I was the happy recipient of a $100 iTunes gift card as the result of buying a new MacBook at the beginning of the year.  It has been forever since I purchased and downloaded music, and I was looking forward to loading up my iPhone with running music.  (Lots of U2 and R.E.M., as my musical tastes seem to have frozen somewhere in grad school).  

Buying music is great from iTunes.  Trying to organize the music and create playlists that work with the iPhone Music app both non-intuitive and unpleasant.  My memories of creating playlists with iTunes during the old click-wheel iPod days are pretty positive.  From what I can tell it seems that Apple has gone backwards with iTunes, prioritizing the selling of music and video and other digital content over a simple and intuitive interface for organizing media.  

The other Apple software mystery is Apple’s productivity apps.  Keynote seems to have caught on with some great presenters (I keep meaning to switch over from PowerPoint but never seem to pull it off), but who uses Pages and Numbers?  Do you know anyone who has switched from Word and Excel?  Do you know anyone who uses Pages rather than Google Docs, or Number rather than Google Spreadsheets?  I don’t.

Maybe this is a higher ed story.  Or perhaps a professional knowledge worker story.  But the Pages and Numbers apps, and their browser based iCloud cousins, are conspicuous in their absence from our work routines.

Are there big iTunes, Pages, and Number fans out there?  

Should we be switching from Office and Google Docs to the iWork suite?  

What do you think explains the poor quality of some Apple software (iTunes) and the irrelevance of other Apple applications?


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