First Impressions of iTunes for Windows
Well, what with all the hoopla surrounding the launch of Apple’s iTunes for Windows I figured I should go and check it out, so I downloaded the software and spent a little while browsing the iTunes Music Store. Here’s my first take.
The software itself is well done. There was some noise about it being a resource hog, but it runs snappily on my home PC, which is nothing special — just a homebrew AMD Duron 1200 box (stuffed with 512MB RAM, though, which might be helping). For whatever reason, though, it certainly doesn’t feel like a half-baked port from another OS, at least from a performance perspective.
The UI is another matter — it’s unchanged from the Mac version, so it’s all brushed aluminum and Aqua buttons, which looks kind of odd sitting on a Windows desktop. But then, no two other Windows apps seem to respect the Windows UI guidelines either (even Office XP throws ’em out the window in favor of its own widgets), so you can hardly blame Apple for that.
So, good software. The store, on the other hand…
Well, let me put it this way. I’m sure that for most people the selection in the iTunes Music Store is fine. However, I came away pretty frustrated at how consistently I was unable to find the artists I was looking for. This may be due more to me having weird tastes than anything else, but it’s still frustrating.
Here’s the thing, see. I find out about a lot of new music from XM Satellite Radio. Specifically, one channel, XMU, is very cool about introducing me to bands that I find fresh and interesting. If you want to see the sort of thing they play on XMU, they publish their playlists every week in PDF format, so it’s easy to look up the name of a band or an album you heard.
So, I went through the last few week’s PDFs looking for bands whose albums had been rattling around in my head with the thought “I really oughta buy that when I get the chance”, and ran them through the iTunes Music Store. Here’s the number of albums iTunes returned for each band:
- GUSTER – 4 albums
- GUIDED BY VOICES – 2 albums
- BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB – 2 albums
- THE RAVEONETTES – 1 album
- NADA SURF – 1 album
- VENUS HUM – 1 album
- SUPER FURRY ANIMALS – 1 album
- DANDY WARHOLS – 1 album
- MULL HISTORICAL SOCIETY – 0 albums
- LIMBECK – 0 albums
- LEMON JELLY – 0 albums
- AMBULANCE LTD – 0 albums
- GABIN – 0 albums
- THE MARS VOLTA – 0 albums
- NEW PORNOGRAPHERS – 0 albums
- EELS – 0 albums
- PARTY OF HELICOPTERS – 0 albums
- MATTHEW JAY – 0 albums
That’s not a great hit rate — and even that’s a little misleading; for some of those bands that are flagged as “1 album”, the album iTunes has available is not their current release, but rather back-catalog material that’s many years old. For others bands that have released many albums, iTunes inexplicably has huge gaps in their catalogs: the band Nada Surf has released five albums since 1995, for example, but you’ll only find one (1996’s High/Low) on iTunes.
Even more strangely, indie-rock gods Guided By Voices (who hail from my home town of Dayton, Ohio — w00t!), who have released more albums than I can count since 1986 (go ahead, you count ’em), have a grand total of two — yes, two — albums on iTunes: this year’s new release Earthquake Glue and 1996’s Mag Earwhig. Now, I can understand why you’d pick the new release to have available if you were gonna only have one GBV album, but if they can reach back to ’96, where’s last year’s Universal Truths and Cycles or 2001’s Isolation Drills, either of which would be excellent “introduction-to-GBV” material?
And the kicker, of course, is that even if iTunes had the albums, I couldn’t load them onto my Archos Jukebox anyway, since it doesn’t play files in iTunes’ AAC format — currently, only the iPod does that. So it’s either jury-rig some contraption to get the songs from iTunes to AAC to CD to MP3, or bag it and just buy the CD.
So, the conclusion thus far is that iTunes is a nice tool, but it looks like (for the moment, anyway) it’s not the answer to my downloadable-music dreams. Oh, well…