Having used the new version of iTunes 8.0 for a couple of hours, here are some of my initial thoughts. The thing I like best about the latest version of iTunes isn’t Genius, but rather the new visualizer. I found myself searching for songs that I wanted to see on the visualizer as some of the new modes are highly responsive to the audio. Ironically, I found the visualizer responded better to classical/instrumental music than to songs with heavy beats. Your mileage may vary. But you can check out some classic Chopin below.
On the other hand, Genius playlists are good. I haven’t used them enough to say they are great. But as long as you don’t mind sharing your song information with Apple, you won’t be disappointed. But that brings us to the Genius Sidebar which is probably my least favorite aspect. The Genius Sidebar “recommends” (i.e. sells) related albums and songs based on what is playing. Apple claims that the Genius Sidebar won’t recommend songs you don’t own, but my sidebar recommended a song for me to buy that was already in my library. I own “Shadows Part 2” but the sidebar notes it is one of the top songs I am missing.
To me, that’s not a big deal. What is a big deal is the whole notion of “Top Songs You’re Missing.” Perhaps the greatest strength of iTunes and specifically the iTunes Music Store was that you could buy exactly what you wanted. Two tracks here, another track there, and you had your awesome music collection for way less than the CD’s. The Genius Sidebar betrays some of that coolness of iTMS by ignoring that those missing tracks may be intentional. But the main focus of the Genius Sidebar is to get you to buy more music so from that perspective it makes sense. So far, the Sidebar hasn’t recommended anything I’m remotely interested in. Perhaps despair.com was right, none of us is as dumb as all of us. Time will tell.
Couple of other things to note. NBC is back with HD shows, not to mention a freebie episode of The Office. 1.33Gb download for 41 minutes of HD fun. Those Apple TV’s are going to fill up even faster assuming HD shows are a hit with Apple TV owners.
You can still roll your own ringtones with songs you’ve imported from CD’s. You can find the details on how to do it here.
Also, time will tell if the synchronization between the App Store regarding updates has been resolved.
Overall, iTunes 8.0 is a decent update.
PS. You can download the screen cast of the visualizer here