Various reports indicate that Apple is working on a major overhaul of iTunes that it plans to launch later this year. Those reports indicate that the update will be focused on consumer-oriented features like improved app/content discovery, music and media sharing, and greater iCloud integration. There’s also the possibility that Apple might split out some iTunes features into separate apps much like the company has done in iOS – the most recent example being the Podcasts app that it launched earlier this week.
Splitting iTunes into discrete parts is an attractive prospect, particularly for businesses and IT professionals. iTunes has become a bloated hodgepodge of functionality over the years. As a result, IT departments typically face a conundrum about whether to support or even allow employees with iOS devices to use iTunes on workplace computers.
The call for trimming iTunes down or splitting it up isn’t new. Many users have complained that Apple needs to streamline iTunes. Ease of use, however, isn’t the only reason that IT departments should welcome an iTunes revamp. If Apple does split iTunes functionality into multiple apps, it could reduce some IT concerns about iTunes and iOS.
Here are a few items that would be an IT wishlist for iTunes:
- Separate app for iOS device activation and sync – iTunes sync is less crucial since iOS 5, but the ability to backup and sync data is still a major need whether it be to iTunes (tethered or wireless) or iCloud. Backup and sync to iCloud or a home computer, however, poses security concerns for IT if business data resides on an employee’s iOS device. A basic iTunes-like app focused on just these features would be a welcome addition for organizations deploying iPhones and iPads.
- Built-in enterprise storefront – Enterprise app stores are becoming quite common and most mirror the iOS interface of the Apple’s App Store. An enterprise version of iTunes could take that concept to another level. Instead of just acting as a repository of internal and suggested public apps, an enterprise version of iTunes could also be used to make core business resources available to users. That could mean things like policy documents, business process guides, and audio or video training content.
- Improved volume or site licensing – Apple’s volume purchase program is more or less effective in letting companies buy apps for employee devices (personal or company-owned), but it’s far from ideal. Creating an option that allows businesses to easily reclaim VPP licenses when workers leave the company or even just delete an app from the iPhone or iPad would be a vast improvement (you can do that in Apple Configurator, but only within certain limits). A site licensing model, though difficult to design for Apple, would be an even better option.
- Easier management of iTunes on office Macs or PCs – Apple does offer the ability for IT departments to restrict access to some iTunes features while still allowing overall access to the application. The process is rather convoluted, particularly under Windows. A simplified option like an enterprise iTunes configuration utility would be better. One option might be a tool that delivered customized iTunes installers. Those installers could be used in either system imaging or simply be given to users that need to install iTunes.
As much as I’d like to see Apple implement all of these options, my feeling is that the company will still go with a single consumer-oriented iTunes release. At least, iOS devices are now less dependent on iTunes than they were just a couple of years ago.