iOS 11 and iTunes Branding Confusion

It may be that Steve Jobs’s most important legacy to Apple was his ferocious focus (just say no), and his ability to strip a complex thing (a product or problem) to straightforward, essential simplicity, a thing of Zen-like beauty.

iTunes, both the store and the brand, were created by his focus and became a huge success because of it. Unfortunately, perhaps inevitably, Apple has lost some of that ferocious focus. It’s easy to see it in the way they treat the iTunes brand.

iTunes and Apple Music are different (one for downloads, one is for streaming) yet overlapping products (music) with separate brand identities. No clarity, no simplicity. Ideally each brand should build off each other but they don’t. They sit uncomfortably side by side, similar to the way iTunes in the Cloud, iTunes Match and Apple Music uncomfortably co-exist in iCloud Music Library.

The latest iOS 11 beta further dilutes the iTunes brand by demoting the iTunes App icon to a star while keeping the musical note icon for the Apple Music App. A star as in movie star? Apple will undoubtably get into the video streaming business, maybe even build a movie studio. Things will undoubtably get more complex.

In Japan Apple sells Apple Music pre-paid cards in addition to the familiar, and popular, iTunes cards; two brands of the same basic product. Will we also see different cards for video streaming? I hope not. The bigger worry however is what Steve Jobs himself warned about in his 1995 “Lost Interview”(25:53 mark) : are marketing people taking over the decision-making forums at Apple and pushing out the product engineers?

Every Japanese convenience store is well stocked with pre-paid cards these days. Apple offers two different kinds, one for iTunes and Apps, another one for Apple Music.

Kirk McElhearn in his very last MacWorld iTunes Guy column observes that this may be happening:

The major shift came, in my opinion, with the release of iTunes 12. While the app had long been a Trojan horse, providing a tool for music fans to organize and play their music, but at the same time being a gateway to the money-earning iTunes Store, the 2014 update of the app took a disturbing turn.


Recent versions of iTunes seem to be designed by the marketing department, not the UI team. In an attempt to stuff as many money-making features as possible into iTunes, Apple has forgotten the app’s original vocation: to play music. iTunes is no longer an app that manages your iTunes library, syncs it to your iOS device, and lets you boogie. It’s become an app to sell, sell, sell you Apple’s media services.

Apple wants to make services a major growth segment for the company. I hope they remember Steve’s advice and focus on making great products.