Saturday, September 19, 2009

Apple Missed the Mark with iTunes Home Sharing

Apple recently released iTunes 9.0 along with newer iPod touch and iPod nano models. I have to admit that although we have 4 iPods already, I am seriously considering getting an iPod nano just because it's pretty cool. I mean who wouldn't won't a tiny video camera, a radio, and a music player in a such a tiny package. The pedometer is kind of nice, but I've never used one in my life so I'm not that excited about it.

One new feature that got me really excited when I first heard about it is the Home Sharing capability in iTunes 9. I was already sharing one iTunes library in our household that serves as a media hub. All of my iPods and iPhone sych with that library using USB. The Apple TV in our family room syncs with it as well over Ethernet and finally, a laptop in the kitchen streams music from it, which we occasionally broadcast using the Multiple Speakers feature in iTunes to an AirPort Expess and to the Apple TV itself.

In the above scenario, the kitchen laptop streamed from the media server with no issues. Sharing didn't require a log-in and I don't believe it was limited to 5 computers as Home Sharing is.

Once I enabled the Home Sharing feature, it replaced the basic streaming capability. As far as I can tell, the only new feature in Home Sharing is the ability to Import music from one library to another. That's a decent feature, but it's not something that you can't simply do by copying the individual music files from one library to another.

Here's why I think Apple missed the mark, which sort of servers as a Wish List for the Home Sharing feature (in case anyone from Cupertino is listening):

  1. The Genius Mixes from the shared library do not show up when accessed from another machine over the network. That's pretty annoying for people who have all of their music on a server and access it from other servers.
  2. The option to show "Items not in my library" does not seem to work very well for some reason. It must have something to do with how the meta data in the music files is compared. This could be an extremely useful feature if it worked correctly, but alas, it's just a waste of time at the moment.
  3. Extend the Multiple Speaker broadcasting to stream the music to other PCs with iTunes just as it's done with the Apple TV and AirPort Express.
  4. Allow Home Sharing for iPod touch and iPhones (at least when they're on the same network over Wi-Fi, but better yet from anywhere ala Simplify Media).
  5. Allow authorized users to make changes to the library from another PC. For example, you should be able to add/remove songs from a playlist, create a new playlist, update a song's information, etc).
  6. Make the Automatic Transfer capability more useful. This feature currently supports the automatic transfer of new media between different PCs, but it only works for items purchased from iTunes. If you buy music from AmazoneMP3 or rip new songs from a CD, they will not be transferred. Ideally, this feature would allow a subscription capability whereby a user would subscribe to a Playlist. As that playlist gets updated, the changes are synchronized to the subscribing PCs.

Anyway, the iTunes Home Sharing feature is still somewhat new (even though most of the key features have been around since iTunes 7), but it would be nice if Apple made it more useful.

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