Apple at WWDC: iTunes era ends, subscription era begins

Apple at WWDC: iTunes era ends, subscription era begins
iTunes has been instrumental in revolutionising the music industry since its launch in 2001. However, Apple has now decided to ditch iTunes as it seeks to push its media through separate music, TV and podcast apps. 

Apple has used its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2019 to underline a significant shift in strategy. The company showcased new versions of iOS, MacOS, WatchOS and even launched a new Mac Pro, but the biggest news coming out of the event was undoubtedly the end of iTunes. The iconic media management software platform will be replaced by three desktop apps that iOS users are already familiar with – Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts.

The transition from iTunes to the three standalone apps will take place later this year, with the launch of the new MacOS Catalina. Music libraries from iTunes will be migrated to the Apple Music app whilst movie and show purchases will be available in the Apple TV app. However, even though the iTunes app will not be available in its present form, the iTunes storefront will remain for purchasing music on Mac devices. In addition, the iTunes experience will not change for Windows users.

A lot of analysts had predicted the end of iTunes after Apple removed all the content from its iTunes pages on Facebook and Instagram, sparking speculation that the end is near. Nevertheless, iTunes has been fundamental to the Apple experience and had acted as the company’s digital hub for managing media. But Apple’s ‘everything software’ quickly turned into a bloated mess that was trying to do too many things. The rise of the iTunes model had coincided with Apple’s emphasis on hardware sales, however, as Apple transitions into a services company, ditching iTunes in favour of separate apps seems the correct approach.

Apple’s Subscription Push

The year 2019 has been a big one for Apple. The company has pivoted from a pure hardware focus to a strategy where subscriptions and other services are being seen as increasingly important areas for future growth amidst dwindling iPhone sales. Apple has already launched Apple News+, with Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade in the pipeline.

In many ways, the death of iTunes is a direct result of the rise of music and video streaming services. Customer preferences have changed over the years and users are no longer interested in owning music and videos. Instead, they are happy to stream content with lower data costs and fast internet access making this a viable proposition. Music streaming services such as Spotify offer easy ways to organise music through playlists. In addition, automated recommendations based on data make music discovery an exciting process. Netflix does something very similar in the video streaming space.

Moreover, digital media subscriptions are on the rise with online music and video revenues being increasingly dominated by subscriptions. Apple’s new standalone apps in these areas align with its current push for services around the company’s large ecosystem. The Cupertino-based giant has already tasted subscription success with Apple Music, and as it looks to enter the video streaming and gaming industries, it seeks to push boundaries yet again. Will the legion of Apple fans take to its new services just as they have taken to its devices? We will wait of watch!