Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Software design

I originally posted this over at Nick Bradbury’s blog in the comments but thought it might do well as an entry here too. Nick was praising iTunes and how he’s finding it to be a better experience to Windows Media Player. This was my response:

While the iPod’s competition are catching up, with bigger hard drives, more features and lower prices, the quality of the software seems to be an area people forget. iTunes is brilliant for usability and looks great too, although it’s a bit sloppy in terms of performance (so maybe Apple could learn a lot from your performance work 😉 ).

Windows Media Player, especially in at version 10, tries to do too much in my opinion. It tries to juggle being an audio and video player while also managing your music collection and allowing you turn burn CDs and listen to radio and sync with your device and… well, you get the point. It’s a jack of all trades but master of none. iTunes concentrates on just a few of those and does them well.

I hear Sony Connect, for use with their NW-HD1/2/3 devices, is even worse. A shame because the devices themselves aren’t bad. But then experience with scanners, digital cameras and printers would suggest that most hardware makers are useless at software design. Apple is one of the few exceptions.

Your thoughts? And no, I’m not trying to break a record for new entries here, even if this is my 6th for today… 🙂


  1. I should be getting an mini iPod for Christmas. My parents suggested other MP3 players but I insisted on the iPod. Reasons, well, I’ve heard it’s very easy to navigate and I didn’t need 20GB of portable music.
    Dave Shea write about the Apple iPod and about the premium you pay for good quality electricals nowadays.
    Another reason why I stuck to my guns with the iPod was the software available, both from Apple itself and 3rd party stuff. There is also a lot other information about the device out there. Which made me feel extremely supported.
    I am interested in seeing how quickly and easily I can delete, add and organise music on the iPod, but via the iPod itself and software on the PC.
    Not sure whether I’ll use iTunes itself as it seems aimed at music on HDD, whereas my music is on CDs. I’ll stick to my no frills approach which I used on my old, small MP3 player (Creative Muvo NX 128mb), which was just drag and drop to a new storage device…maybe I’ll change my mind.

  2. I’m still stuck in a quandry regarding iTunes. The gui is indeed perfect (though i wish they would hide the menu’s to look more streamlined like the mac version… maybe in a button like mp does now).
    Problem i have is that i’m so used to winamp after using it for years that i miss those little but to me important things…
    Volume ramping on pause/play. There is nothing worse than blasting out loud music and when pausing it having that gharstly sudden silence in the room. That kind of sudden silence is deafening.
    Crossfading when seeking, again like the above it can really hurt your ears when the sound suddenly jumps between 2 loud moments.
    They sound like petty reasons but really, when you are used to them you really really do miss them.

  3. One thing that ALWAYS irks me about any piece of software is feature bloat. I can semi understand MS decisions with Media Player but getting the balance between the feature sets required by new users and experienced users is very hard.
    Take, as MRKisThatKid suggests, WinAmp. I used to use it and yeah I do miss some of it’s features but on the other hand I find iTunes much much easier to use, and my wife can use it without any tuition from me.
    I wonder if the iPod/iTunes combination has put paid to the whole idea of software convergance?

  4. for me, WMP has two big advantages:
    It automatically updates your library by searching through your My Music folder and any others you specify. If I rip a cd outside iTunes or download a few mp3s from a p2p app, I have to add them to iTunes manually, which is a pain in the arse.
    It automatically connects to the Windows Media site and displays information about the artist and album. With the advent of MSN Music UK, the info display is bollocks but there is a hack to restore the old settings…