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Where Are Beats Music, iTunes, and the iPod? Hiding Under Bono’s Swag

U2's storming of Apple's stage yesterday was effective at several things, including -- funnily enough -- drawing attention away from the company's music focus.

The bombast of bringing out the world’s richest rock band (and its new album, which is currently in your iTunes library whether you want it there or not, a subtle reminder of the power Apple has to minutely affect your everyday life) to cap the biggest product announcement in years from the world’s richest company was an effective demonstration of the company’s shifting priorities — away from music. There was no mention of Beats (other than the fact that you can stream U2’s album on their streaming service and Eddy Cue pretending to shop for some very pricey, very bass-y headphones during its mobile payment demonstration), no word on the ever-aged iTunes interface and store and radio service, or even a swan song for the quietly discontinued iPod Classic.


The fact that Beats Music wasn’t mentioned once — you thought it was coming, perhaps, when Tim Cook began his final monologue of the day with “Music runs deep in Apple’s DNA, and runs through the core of all of our products… ” but you were wrong — might signal that the company is planning a singular, substantive event for Beats’ future within the white walls of 1 Infinite Loop, likely with a low price point (far lower than Deezer’s just-announced whopper of a scheme) and deep iTunes integration (or subsumption?). More likely though is that the company is tromping through the code of its respective platforms ahead of that integration before merging Beats’ aesthetic into its own near-maddeningly perfect designs.


iTunes, meanwhile, hasn’t had a significant design upgrade since November, 2012. It’s now so bloated — from years of feature adds (Genius, Match) and subtractions (oof, Ping) and a code base that likely still bears some trademarks from its launch in 1998 — that the program is noticeably sluggish even on modern systems. In the real world, the company is currently pushing its iTunes Music Festival, taking place in London through the end of this month. Artists from Pharrell to Tony Bennett are or have performed, with performances being made available to watch for free. The service has, through it’s beginnings as a music retailer up to its present incarnation as an app delivery system, brought in 500 million users, and their credit card information, to the company, which will bolster its brand-new Apple Pay system.

But silently killing the iPod Classic? That’s a cold goodbye for the product that helped, along with the iMac, relaunch Apple in the eyes of consumers after the company’s floundering years during the early-to-late ’90s. It’s an understandable move, as iPod sales continue to recede in the face of the iPhone’s dominance; the iPod division is by far the least-profitable within the company — iPods have sold less than 10.2 million units during the first three quarters of this year, compared to 109 million iPhones in the same period. But regardless, the iPod Classic, which resembled its earlier brothers and sisters, was an iconic product with an immeasurable impact on the music industry.

But at least we’ve got a new remote control for our old iTunes.