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September 10, 2008

The Real Genius in iTunes 8? Apple Will Make More Money.

At times, it seems like the mainstream press hasn't yet figured out how to preview Apple events. That Apple periodically updates its iPods or iPhones or computers and software is really no surprise. The home runs are typically saved for MacWorld San Francisco, with big announcements sprinkled in at the company's WorldWide Developers' Conference (WWDC) and the occasional one-off event. But even when the company makes largely expected announcements, some go into severe hype in advance, and severe lows following. And like the illegal drug users who share the same spike and eventual crash, they're usually left looking for more. But behind the acid trip rainbow iPod Nanos and and upgraded iPod Touch, there was an element of real genius - as iTunes was upgraded with a new tool making it even easier to spend even more money on the popular online music store.


An iTunes Genius playlist, based on ATB's "Do You Love Me"


One of the major new features of iTunes 8 is called "Genius", which will leverage your own iTunes listening history, as well as that of other iTunes users, and try to create a playlist of songs similar to that which you are listening to. Like "Party Shuffle", it will get some mixes right, and some wrong, but it's following along the path of Pandora and Last.fm to use a crowd's information to provide recommendations and guess what other songs or artists you would like.

(See also: ReadWriteWeb: iTunes 8: The Genius in the Box and Mark Evans: Is Apple’s Genius Good or Evil?)

The breakthrough for Genius isn't so much that you can rediscover old music that you've neglected, although for some that is no doubt true. The real value is in the Genius sidebar, which is plastered with "Buy" buttons linking to the iTunes Music Store. In a time when so many Web services are hoping ad clicks will provide them with a way to the promised land, the simplicity of how Apple rolls out new services that enable a larger revenue stream is impressive.

For me, Apple iTunes long ago became my default source for new music. Even if I found a song on the radio or through Last.fm or another source, the first step is to head to iTunes to get it and download it. If iTunes doesn't have the song or album, it might as well no longer exist. I won't be heading to another service to find the song, but I may buy something else instead. That Apple has now made a mainline to my credit card every single time I fire up iTunes is a great way for me to continue making regular donations to my favorite for-profit Cupertino-based charity.

Of course, given I already have 4,342 songs totaling 18.3 days worth of music which hasn't been listened to in the last six months, according to my "Neglected" playlist, maybe I should be satisfied with what I have. Now that would be true genius.