Apple officially axes iTunes

Apple is killing iTunes.

The company announced the move at its annual developer conference in San Jose, California, on Monday. Last week, Bloomberg reported the company is phasing out iTunes in favor of three new desktop apps, called Music, TV and Podcasts — similar to how these services are already divided on iPhones and iPads.

The changes are coming with the new Mac software update, Catalina.

Apple has been beefing up digital services such as video streaming to offset eroding sales of its bedrock product, the iPhone.

The move to phase out iTunes isn’t a total surprise as the company has been pushing users toward its Apple Music subscription service. After all, Apple can charge a monthly fee to boost revenue rather than wait for a customer to buy a few songs.

iTunes formally launched in 2001 but its music store, launched two years later, changed the way we buy songs and albums. The format came at a time the music business struggled with online piracy and file-sharing sites. With a relatively intuitive user interface, a simple billing tool and an on-demand catalogue, iTunes far better experience than any other platform at the time.

iTunes’ strategy has been closely aligned with Apple’s devices business, but the rise of subscription content and services is a clear shift away from the iTunes model, said Jack Kent, analyst of IHC Markit.

“For Apple’s own business, it marks the strategic shift away from a central hardware focus to a business in which subscription content and services are increasingly important for margin and revenues,” said Kent, referencing the iPhone’s sluggish sales.

IHS Markit’s research found subscription services accounted for more than 80% of online music and video revenues in 2018, compared with less than 10% in 2008, in North America and Western Europe.

Over the years, critics argued standalone apps — like the ones already on iPhones and iPads — could offer a smarter approach. Now that Apple has now acquired 56 million paying customers, perhaps the time is ripe for such a change.

“Apple had to put the pieces in place to make it all happen,” said Ramon Llamas of IDC Research. “If you look at consumer behavior in which users are willing to pay a regular fee for unlimited content — and that’s what they can get from other services such as Spotify, Pandora and Netflix — Apple is smartly aligning itself against those competitors with its own approach.”

The end of iTunes doesn’t mean CEO Tim Cook is going to start remotely deleting years of downloaded and purchased songs and movies. The company will probably roll out next steps to manage and access downloaded content in other ways, such as via Apple Music.

“Building a bridge is always important in order to not alienate its current user base, but I’d argue that it has already taken that step considering the Apple Music numbers,” Llamas said. “Clearly, it needs to direct people in that direction and show a clear cut-off date so that users are prepared.”

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