Apple has confirmed plans to shut down iTunes, nearly two decades after the pioneering service was first launched.
Apple CEO Tim Cook made the announcement at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose on Monday night.
iTunes has been Apple’s all-encompassing, umbrella media app for nearly 20 years, allowing users to listen to music, watch movies and TV shows, listen to podcasts and manage their devices.
Apple will be replacing iTunes with three separate apps: Apple Music, Apple Podcasts and Apple TV, marking a move away from buying content and towards streaming entertainment.
Apple users who still want to sync their media with other devices will be able to do so through an option in the Finder app on Mac devices.
There will still be the ability to purchase and download songs from the Music app, while users can buy movies through the Apple TV app.
The announcement may not be a surprise to industry observers and Apple fans, with the writing seemingly on the wall since the company acquired Beats Music in 2014 and transformed it into Apple Music, a streaming service to rival Spotify.
iTunes was unveiled by Apple founder Steve Jobs in early 2001 as a “groundbreaking solution” to music piracy.
“There is a music revolution happening right now. We’re late to this party and we’re about to do a leapfrog,” Jobs said at the launch.
“[iTunes] offers the revolutionary right to burn an unlimited number of CDs for personal use and to put music on an unlimited number of iPods for on-the-go listening.”
At the time, iTunes was Apples’ take on the new ‘jukebox’ software of the time.
“iTunes is miles ahead of every other jukebox application, and we hope its dramatically simpler user interface will bring even more people into the digital music revolution,” Jobs said.
The service was first launched as a tool for digitising CDs, with the music store launched in 2003. It has now broadened to encompass TV shows, movies and podcasts, and is also the means to manage other devices such as iPhones.
But Apple is now signalling its intent to move away from this centralised service, towards separate applications for each medium, and less of a reliance on the iPhone as the primary device.
While users are already concerned about what will happen to their large libraries of music and other media, it appears that this will all be retained and stored in the individual apps that will soon be launched.
When Jobs first launched iTunes, he hailed it as “really clean, really simple and far more powerful” than other offerings, but many would say it is now far from that, with common complaints about its usability and costs.
Apple is also expected to reveal a new software update for the Apple Watch at the conference, making it more independent from the iPhone with an on-board App Store.
It will also unveil renewed efforts to improve the iPad software and make it a more viable replacement for a laptop.
There will also be a focus on augmented reality and further efforts in the healthcare space, specifically on hearing health.