As an iPod Classic owner, I’ve got pretty used to downloading new versions of iTunes over the past few months which don’t seem to offer any new features, but iTunes 8 promised something new, so I was looking forward to giving it a go.
There’s one new feature which you’ll notice straight away which is called “Genius”. Genius is actually two very different things in iTunes 8 with completely different purposes. The first is basically the “mini-store” from previous versions, but on steroids.
Here, it takes up the whole right quarter of the screen but it’s essentially the same deal as the mini-store. It suggests tracks you might like to purchase based on what you’re currently playing. This is all dandy and fine, but nothing new. That said, “buy with 1 click” seems to be switched on by default here. The only thing I can say about 1 click, is never sit in front of it when you’ve come back from the pub. I still have the first season of Diff’rent Strokes on my iPod and I have no idea why!
The other aspect of Genius is much more interesting. The idea is that Genius can create playlists from your library which consist of songs that go well together. It’s a bit of an odd concept (like you’re not capable of creating your own playlists?) but the results are strikingly good. You can select how many songs are in each playlist and I tried it with a wide range of songs. There were a few occasions where it screwed up, like when it put Daft Punk’s “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” in a playlist generated from “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” by Paul Simon. (!)
Obviously you have to have a reasonably sized music collection for Genius to work well. I consider my collection (only 893 songs) to be small, but I think Genius still did well with what I have. You have to have an iTunes account to use Genius and the whole process of matching songs seems to be carried out at Apple’s end, no-doubt telling Apple absolutely everything about your rubbish taste in music. The track you choose to base your Genius playlist on must also be on Apple’s database. I’m not sure if that means the track must be available on iTunes or not, but tellingly, “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds” came back as not found. That’ll be no Beatles then.
There’s not much else to talk about really. There’s a new Windows Media style tile view of album art (just as pointless as coverflow) and my iPod games are still referred to as “Apps”. It still doesn’t support Aero properly, but it’ still simply the best media management software around.
Like Windows, iTunes is a mature beast which is becoming increasingly harder to get excited about, but also harder to find fault with. iTunes 8 coincides with the release of Apple’s new line of iPods and for the first time (in my opinion) they don’t really offer anything over their predecessors. I think the same applies to iTunes 8, but as it’s free, you should just download it, mess around with Genius for a while, shrug your shoulders and wait for something meaningful to come along. Like an iPod Touch with a hard drive…