How iTunes Could Kill Windows 8 Tablets

How iTunes Could Kill Windows 8 Tablets

It seems unlikely you'll ever see an iTunes icon here.

Despite being totally dedicated to Mac OS X right now, I can’t help but get excited about Windows 8. Having enjoyed the Metro UI experience with Windows Phone, I can’t wait to try it out on a tablet. And I know a lot of users feel the same way. But one thing that could put many of them off Windows 8 slates is the lack of iTunes.

Microsoft knows this, and it knows it’s a real problem that could kill Windows 8 tablets before they’ve even hit the market in the minds of many consumers.

For Microsoft to make Windows 8 a success, it’ll need the support of its biggest rival: Apple. A huge portion of Windows users use iOS devices that they sync with their PCs, and the iTunes Store for purchasing music, movies, TV shows, and apps. Of course, they need iTunes to do that.

The problem is, Windows 8 tablets run a touch-friendly version of the operating system built for ARM processors that exclusively uses the Metro user interface. It’s not like the PC version, which allows you to switch between the Metro and traditional Windows UIs. And because of this, Microsoft is encouraging developers to adapt their applications for the Metro UI.

There’s a good chance that Apple — a company famous for playing by its own rules — will decide it doesn’t want to play ball. And if that turns out to be the case, it’s one reason why consumers may decide not to adopt a Windows 8 tablet.

Rick Sherland, an analyst with Nomura Securities, believes “the incentive is for Apple not to do this.”

“If I can’t get iTunes on [a Windows 8 on ARM tablet],” Sherland continued, “that’s a big deal for me.”

Of course, Windows 8 does come with its own music app, which users could transfer all of their content to. But it’s not iTunes, and it won’t sync with iOS devices.

This is a problem Microsoft has been thinking about, according to Jay Greene over at CNET. Although the company declined to comment on the matter, its CEO, Steve Ballmer, revealed last year that Microsoft would “welcome Metro-style application from Apple in the iTunes case.”

“I don’t know what we’d see there,” Ballmer said. “But we’d certainly welcome those.”

Apple also declined to comment, CNET reports.

Do you think Apple will adapt iTunes for the Metro UI? And would a lack of iTunes encourage you to avoid Windows 8 tablets?

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  • Joel Hoekstra

    Perhaps this is the moment for people to decide to buy more windows oriented phones or any of the android models. I’m curious at how this will develop over time.

  • Gregintosh

    This article is junk. That’s like saying iPads will never take off because people can’t plug and synch their iPhones up to them.

    Windows 8 will have iTunes for the desktop, and thats how people synch and store their content.

    I don’t think anyone is going to be making a Windows 8 tablet their only computer, much like MOST users aren’t ready to make the iPad their only computer.

    And now that Apple has iTunes Match and all the iCloud stuff, that further eliminates the need for synching.

    This is a non-issue.

  • saif365

     Why would anyone run iTunes on a Windows 8 Tablet to sync media!! This article make no sense. The desktop OS will always have iTunes to sync media locally. This is like running iTunes in iPad to sync iPhone…… Haa Haa iSee what you did there :P

  • STRIPBLUNTS

    I’m sure Microsoft is going go sell a whole lot of these devices! lol (*sarcasm*)

  • darren warbritton

    Windows 8 Tablets

  • ken147

    *sync

  • google

    8? Sure?

    Ok, but in the first year, not in three days…

  • Bruce Miller

    Not likely. Apple does not mind cannibalizing its own stuff but in a business that now relies on selling iPhones and iPads, there is no reason to do this. 

  • Megazine

    I stopped using laptops and desk tops after I got my iPad 2 and 3 so personally for me this is a deal breaker. I synce all my data and apps, documents, pages, notes, contacts, numbers, music, video, keynotes, pictures etc. over iCloud or Evernote.

  • bdkennedy

    My guess is that Apple could create some sort of stripped down version of iTunes, such as no iTunes Store, no iCloud compatibility and give Windows users the bare minimum.

  • freighttrain2126

    Maybe this is how office ends up on the iPad, a scratch our back we’ll scratch yours kind of deal.

  • Ionut Inteleptu

    If Windows 8 will be as fast as an ipad I will buy a windows 8 tablet. Everyone wants a tablet with windows but it should work like an ipad for basic tasks in order to be successful.

  • joewaylo

    I’m sure Apple will adapt it. They did plan on going ARM Macs one time before deciding against it for desktop machines. You don’t really need iTunes that much anymore except if you have over 16/32/64 GBs of movies and TV shows you happen to store on a computer versus redownloading them and spending your 250GB cap with your cable company.

  • Gabriel Yagoub

    Wait, isn´t LACK of iTunes a positive thing?

  • mevans7

     A Windows 8 tablet user would only need an iTunes app that would play their content.  On Windows 8 desktop, users would want iTunes to manage/sync their iPhones, pads, pods.

  • Javier

    @Gregintosh:disqus , @saif365:disqus , etc.
    In case you have not noticed, Apple has sold more iPods than it has Macs. Apple has sold more iPhones than it has Macs. Apple has even sold more iPads than it has Macs. It is a safe bet that Apple sold the majority of those devices to users of Microsoft Windows.

    iTunes is a Windows application just like every other application. Businesses won’t upgrade to Windows 8 until they know that their strategic business apps are compatible with Windows 8. Gamers won’t upgrade to Windows 8 until they know that their favorite games perform just as well on a Windows 8 system as on a Windows 7 system. Ditto people who manage their media collections using iTunes.

    Sure, they could use a different application to manage their media. They might could even find a better application than iTunes. The question is: What is so great about Windows 8 that would convince happy iTunes users to make that switch? I don’t know.

    As for Apple, I’m sure they want to sell iPods, iPhones, and iPads to Windows 8 users. That’s why they created iTunes for Windows in the first place. A petulant Microsoft might pack up their Internet Explorer and go home just because Apple created Safari, but Apple’s position is not that secure.

    The real question is: How good will iTunes for Windows 8 be, and when? After trying out Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I find that I prefer Windows XP. I did not find a compelling reason to switch. If I were Microsoft, I would look for that compelling reason, and not count on iTunes to provide it.

    If Steve Jobs were still alive, he might say, “One more thing….” There is an iTunes for the iPad, and an iTunes for the iPhone. They are an alternative, but not a substitute for iTunes for the Mac or iTunes for Windows. If the goal of Windows 8 is to sell Windows to those consumers that believe a tablet is all the computer they need….

  • Dave

    I wouldn’t have a metro tablet even if it was free

  • munpip214

    I’m sure there are a lot of users that make iPad their only device (including myself) and would only have a Windows 8 tablet. Not everyone can afford both a tablet and a computer.

  • Kikitas

    give us Office on iPad and we’ll give you iTunes! that’s how it should go…

  • Steve Cole

    one word: iCloud

  • Alfiejr

    nope, Apple will not bring iTunes to W8 tablets. iTunes/Match is a huge advantage for Apple and the last thing they will do is give it away to the competition.

    but – there are many third party Android and Windows apps now that can directly access your iTunes library somehow. even use AirPlay. i’m sure we will see the same with Metro tablets/phones.

    likewise, there are third party iOS apps that can directly access and work with your Office files now too, with more coming.

    so there are always work-arounds to jump over the fences between the “walled gardens” – but not to leap between the “walled clouds”!

  • Jimmy Powers

    I think there is an incentive for Apple to build a Metro app just to compete on the x86 side. The tech media keeps making the jump from x86 desktop to ARM tablet, forgetting light weight laptops, netbooks, new form factors like the Lenovo Yoga and even x86 tablets (which I’m using now).

    Considering the fact that Vista sold 180 million units in 18 months, I’ll go out on a limb and guess that the Windows 8 Metro market will be healthy for any company including Apple to compete in. Overall iTunes’ absence wouldn’t hurt MS any more than it will Android or any future tablet competitor, but I think it would certainly be a big positive for Microsoft if Apple develops it!

  • 4mula

    Totally daft. Of course it’s “unlikely you’ll ever see an iTunes icon here.” – just like you won’t see a competing store selling content on iOS.

    If you’re a windows user, you will sync your iOS device in exactly the same way as you do currently, and if we do eventually end up in a ‘non-pc’ world, everything will be cloud based anyway.

  • jasoturner

    I listen to Spotify much more often that iTunes.   Not sure iTunes necessarily represents the future path of media consumption actually…  Don’t see this as a big deal for MS devices.

  • morgan3nelson

    I don’t know anyone who has run Windows 8 on a Desktop or a Tablet that has been excited.  It is an UGLY kludgy design that is forcing many of my PC only colleagues to now consider Mac’s.  If the Future of Microsoft is Windows 8, it is a bleak and dismal future.

    Windows 8 is NOT user friendly nor is it intuitive.  It is actually pretty insulting – it feels like FisherPrice “My First OS” for Toddlers and Pre-School Age children. Microsoft has lost it’s identity.  Windows 8 and the Metro UI remind me of a scene in Up! – you know the one i’m talking about – “Squirrel!” With Windows 8 Microsoft is chasing “squirrels” instead of staying focused on what it does best – Back Office and Business Servers.

  • prof_peabody

    If you ignore the Metro part, “Windows 8″ is identical in every way to “Windows 7,” in fact it *is* Windows 7.  iTunes will run on Windows 8 (intel) exactly the same way it runs on Windows 7 and won’t need any upgrading or magic to make it work.  

    The people in the lurch will be those that choose an ARM Windows 8 Tablet and use it as their only computer.  They won’t be able to manage their media or use iTunes at all.  

    Everyone else will be able to use iTunes as usual but with the caveat that they have to “drop out” of Metro to the old UI to use it or play songs and video unless Apple makes a Metro app.  

    Given that there will only be a few ARM Windows 8 tablets (most of the projected hardware for Windows 8 is intel by a HUGE margin), and the number of people who will use a Windows 8 tablet as their main machine is similarly tiny, this won’t be a big problem.  

  • davrosuk

    Exactly right. This is *precisely* the reaction I have received to Windows 8. With GNOME completely ruined and Ubuntu’s Unity a complete mess, OSX is looking very attractive to a lot of users. In just one swift move Microsoft might well have done more to promote the Mac than Apple ever have.

  • MADGeek

    Don’t be surprised if there is a back room deal between M$ and Apple, where M$ continues to support Office for the Mac (and maybe iOS) and Apple supports syncing to and/or running iTunes on Windows 8 (both Intel and ARM versions). Both of these companies have interdependencies such that it makes the best business sense to support each other.

  • imajoebob

    If the OS is the reason for preferring the Windows Tablet,  I’d probably replace my iPod with a Metro UI Zune.  

  • veggiedude

    To Apple it is!

  • PRS

    “Rick Sherland, an analyst with Nomura Securities, believes “the incentive is for Apple not to do this.”” This is BS. Apple makes most of it profits from selling media not devices. So putting iTunes on Windows 8 is definitely an incentive for them to keep selling songs and stuff. Its like saying Apple has no incentive for making iTunes for windows desktops because then people wouldn’t buy Macs.

  • aardman

     “Apple makes most of it profits from selling media not devices.”
    So utterly wrong and yet so authoritatively said.

  • aardman

    My thoughts exactly.  But Apple is still waiting if they can get away without MS Office for iOS.

    My sense is MS needs iTunes more badly than Apple needs MS Office.  And MS just might unilaterally port tablet Office to iOS if they are serious about an “Office everywhere” strategy.

  • aardman

    The issue isn’t iTunes for desktop Win8.  The issue is iTunes for Win8 on ARM. 

  • aardman

    I always thought that iTunes was the secret sauce to Apple’s success.  Hundreds of millions of people have invested so much time, effort and money on setting up and running iTunes, and it works well enough for most people. (Despite the occasional purist who demands 110% efficiency on their software.)  Microsoft needs to offer an alternative that is compelling enough that people are willing to go through the pain of switching to a different content-and-device management platforms.  And as we all know, Microsoft is not famous for building compelling products.

  • Javier

    As I pointed out, iTunes already exists on ARM–on the iPhone and iPad. ARM is not a show-stopper.

  • markrlangston

    No doubt, there was a time when Apple needed iTunes on Windows in order to reach a larger audience. But with iCloud and the ability to manage your entire library from an iPad or iPhone is all the more reason Apple doesn’t need Windows’ support to sell more iOS devices.
    Syncing without a PC was inevitable but the fact that you no longer had to rely on a Windows workstation to do so was clearly a bonus. Premeditated or not it does suggest that Apple is thinking ahead.

  • Son of Squidward

    Everyone? I don’t want a tablet with Windows. Your argument is refuted.

  • Matthew Flinn

    If Apple tries to play hard-ball and tell Microsoft that they will not provide iTunes for the Windows 8 platform, lets see how well that stands up to Microsoft turning around and telling Apple that they will not provide the Microsoft Office Suite for any future Mac operating systems. Go ahead and rot, Apple.

    As for my opinion on the importance of iTunes: I will just use Zune or Spotify. I prefer to pay a monthly subscription and listen to anything rather than pay for each of my songs and albums individually.

  • guest

    That’s when apple will say, “give us Microsoft office, and we’ll give you iTunes.”

    That will be the true killer because the only reason people are waiting for the windows tables is for the MS office integration. Once iOS has it, it’s a no brainer.

  • WPUser320

    You know iCloud is MS Azure and Amazon Web Services right lol 

  • techgeek01

    No iTunes on Windows 8 tablets will hurt Apple more than Microsoft.

    No iTunes on Windows 8 tablets will mean that people will use Zune. Or Whatever the music player will be.  Apparently Microsoft is doing an overhaul here.  Could be fused into xBox.  So, something like xBox music.  So who knows what it will be called.

    Honestly?  iTunes it probably the last thing people care about when picking up windows 8 tablets.

    We are in a post-iTunes world.  When there wasn’t smartphones around, iTunes was very important.  But now?  People more and more using their Phones.  Android, iOS, Windows.  Meaning that people are using more and more NON-iTunes programs.

    I used to use iTunes religiously.  All my music came from there.  Now?  I don’t buy my music from iTunes.  I can buy it cheaper (99.99% of the time) of Amazon or in some cases Google Music.  So iTunes was “flushed” there.  Now, it is used part of the time.  Youtube, Spotify and iTunes.

    In reality? My iTunes usage will probably drop to Zero once I pick up a Windows Phone. I’ll be picking up Windows 8, and since I would be using a Windows Phone, I’ll just use whatever program it will be.

    The point being:  iTunes is becoming less and less irrelevant.  5 years ago? Extremely Important.  Now?  Not so.

    It will be an added bonus to Windows 8 tablets, but if Apple dosen’t make a “metro app” for Windows 8, it will hurt them more than it will hurt Microsoft.

  • Peter

    While I agree, I have an iPod shuffle that I use when running.  If the Windows 8 tablet is going to be my only computer (this is a post-PC world, after all), how do I sync my music with my iPod shuffle?

  • countach

    At first glance, one might ask, why would you want to synch your win 8 tablet with your iPad. On the other hand, as far as I can tell, MS is promoting Metro as the future of windows. If iTunes isn’t on Metro, even the PC version, that might hurt Metro, and thus windows. Nobody knows yet how this battle of wills will turn out.

  • jsiska

    This might have been true in 2003, when Apple used iTunes on windows to lure people towards OS X and Apple products. This had worked.

    Nowadays this job is done by iPhone and iPads, so Apple doesn’t need iTunes on windows tablets to lure people to buy Mac/iPhone/iPad, they are doing it regardless of this.

  • John Howell

    Now this is interesting, what annoyed me most with my laptop when I travelled, is having to manually copy over songs and movies to the laptop before going away. I always thought, “what I actually need is something that makes my laptop look just like a big iPod” and report back to iTunes what podcasts I watched or listened to while away, what songs I rated with howmany stars after listening to them for the first time, and keeping my “50 songs not played in two weeks” list fresh. I dont want it to serve the data, I want it to be a client, just like my iPhone and iPad. My iPad solved that, it has replaced my laptop on trips and for most of my work, and this is one of the reasons why.

    As for synching, this article is really saying that Windows on ARM is Windows. It isn’t. It is a limited set of APIs and is designed to to fast task switching, just like iOS, not multitasking, x86 programs wont run on it, they will have to be written using the Metro only APIs. Big fat x86 aps are just not designed for low power devices. Thats why laptop batteries suck! 
    What will stop me using Windows 8 on ARM will be if it doesn’t have a citrix client, or an SSH client, or an X11 server, or an evernote client, or an RSS client as smooth as Reeder on iOS and OSX, and can run XBMC or an equivalent like PLEX. Windows 8 on ARM has about 3 years of software to catch up on before it’s really useful. I’m pretty sure the only way I’ll use it will be just like Windows 7 – my company forces me to because that what they give me for work. Luckily they havnt messed with my preferred phone and personal tablet 8)

  • John Howell

    NZ $500 desktop computer (second hand mac mini) and a new iPad for NZ$799. Same price as one big laptop, except my battery lasts all day, and my arm doesnt fall off lugging it around all day long, 

  • John Howell

    Your shuffle was born in a PC world, and is now a dinosaur, a small, cute, easy to carry dinosaur. It was specifically designed to let some other bigger “server” do the heavy lifting of content management, and reduced itself to the simple task of being a great media player. Now you can by them so cheap, and so easy to use I got one for my 6 year old daughter. And yes, I have to synch it and charge it from my desktop.
    But I also have an iPhone 3G that I gave to my wife, my iPhone4, and an iPad. I still have iTunes running on a barely used desktop, but all of these (except the poor old 3G) synch over the home wifi. I don’t have to worry about docking them. “Post PC” doesnt mean “No PC”. I just use my PC far less than I used to while still increasing the amount of time I spend enjoying the internet.

  • Tim Hart

    I think the writer has missed the point.. with iTunes moving to the cloud, there won’t be a requirement to have an iTunes “App” to synch anything.

  • John Howell

    More likely it will just be an iTunes client like on iOS. iTunes as the main app is massive. It consumes aboud 500MB of RAM, and is the single biggest app in terms of resources that I have running all the time. SOme apps I have are bigger, but they dont have to be up all the time.
    ITunes really needs to split into a service and a client. Then I could just keep an old PC around as an iTunes server and I could let my mac go to sleep more often 8)

  • John Howell

    Now I have to laugh. Apple might launch a free tunes client through the MS applications store. MS makes no money. But then everything you buy through iTunes, Apple clips 30% mwuhhahahahaha!

  • Ilikestuff

    there is if you obtain your media content through other sources, legal or otherwise. I really don’t see myself jumping over to the cloud for video and music any time soon, judging by the fact that my iTunes contains 260GB of music (inc. podcasts) ±386 apps I’ve bought for iPod touch / iPad over the years and more than 1TB of TV shows and Films, At least not until 3G/4G battery life increases alongside data caps and data prices.

  • theDJPrice

    I have wondered about this as well, and it is definitely going to be an issue. Not so much one of syncing, but rather stupid consumers saying well I have music and movies on my desktop and iPhone that I bought from iTunes, but how do I get that on my new windows 8 tablet and how do I access it in a familiar and easy way? Not to mention the lack of iTunes match support, cloud support for downloads and other nice iTunes ecosysytem features.

  • theDJPrice

    This could be the reason we haven’t seen Office yet despite hearing the rumors of its existence.

  • rgurdal

    This is huge to me. I can’t wait to sell my iPad and get a Surface. My biggest concern, however, is what to do about iTunes. I’m completely tied in to iTunes. It’s the only Windows 7 application I use every day that doesn’t yet have a Windows 8/RT equivalent.

    Saying we could just run the Windows 7 iTunes in the Win8 Desktop environment isn’t enough. The desktop is for old “legacy” programs. The “Metro” touch UI is the future of Windows now. Should I buy a computer just for backward compatibility? Or should I look to what’s best for new software?

    Apple may be spiteful and competitive (see Google maps on iPhone5), but they like money. And most iTunes customers are on Windows7. If most of their customers start running Windows RT/8, they would be crazy to abandon them.

  • dave365

    Check out rtRemote for iTunes – it is a remote control for iTunes that runs in Windows 8 metro interface. I can navigate my media library, queue songs, stream media to my airplay speakers, all without leaving the metro interface. Have been running it for a couple of weeks and its been very stable. V happy with it. Its free in the Windows Store.

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a freelance writer based in the UK. He has an interest in all things tech, but most enjoys covering Apple, anything mobile, and gaming. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell, or through his website.

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