Finally, Apple addresses its biggest weakness


For all its innovative designs, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) has a clunker in iTunes. And you know what? CEO Tim Cook knows it, too.

According to Bloomberg News, the Mac maker is planning a massive overhaul of the service. Planned features include using iCloud to better synchronise downloaded entertainment across a number of devices and more tools for sharing music.

We’ll know the details when Apple is ready to announce them. In the meantime, let’s take a look at what iTunes isn’t and what it could be.

Synchronicity: more than just an album from The Police
Apple’s ecosystem isn’t nearly as elastic as those of its partners and rivals because everything is downloaded. Thus, if you start a purchased movie on your iPad and then switch to your Apple TV, you’ll have to start the watching experience over again. Each device manages content independently.

Rentals are where this problem comes into sharp relief. Say you purchase a 24-hour rental of Oscar-winning flick The Artist from your Mac. Because you’re downloading a file, you’re tied to that device for your rental. Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), by contrast, serves 100% of its content via streaming from a growing and interconnected network of servers.

Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) has a similar system for their customers. Whether you’re a Prime member streaming free content or purchasing new premium TV or movies, the e-tailer delivers over the Web. That way, you can start and stop watching at will and then catch up at exactly where you left off.

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is also getting into the game of providing synchronicity. I’m only going by my own experience here, but when I watch shows in spurts while logged into YouTube, the service now keeps my place. And not just for everyday videos. The Big G also has a provision for streaming rentals from its Play video store in YouTube.

Spying on Spotify
Synchronicity is important, but it’s also one of two major issues Bloomberg says Apple will address in the next version of iTunes. The new store and related apps are going to be more social.

To be fair, Apple has tried this before with the failed music network Ping. What would be different this time? My guess is the Mac maker would channel features that make Spotify popular.

If you’ve yet to try it, Spotify is an app that aggregates music you own and music you can stream into a single player. You can also share a single track with a friend or broadcast your current playlist. Because of its social proclivities, Facebook (NYSE: FB) has essentially deemed Spotify its version of iTunes Music. Meanwhile, Spotify’s new mobile app uses Facebook Connect to login for sharing and saving of music tracks discovered while on the go.

Apple, too, has increased engagement with both Twitter and Facebook, which makes social sharing of playlists a likely option in the new iTunes. Apps might also make the service more compelling. Right now, Spotify includes TuneWiki for syncing lyrics with tracks, Rolling Stone Recommends for access to the top choices from the legendary magazine, and Tastebuds for meeting people who share your listening interests, among others. Spotify is using music to create a social hub — an opportunity iTunes has largely ignored outside of its meagre efforts with Ping.

Breaking bad rules
And those are just two areas where iTunes needs help. There’s also the prospect of transforming the service into a digital wallet that challenges Google and eBay. What else did I miss? Which businesses did I miss? Or, conversely, do you expect Apple to simply tinker with iTunes and move on to bigger projects?

Either way, it pays attention to study potential shifts since, over time, the market rewards those that lead the rebellions.

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The Motley Fools purpose is to help the world invest, better. Take Stock is The Motley Fool’s free investing newsletter. Packed with stock ideas and investing advice, it is essential reading for anyone looking to build and grow their wealth in the years ahead. Click here now to request your free subscription, whilst it’s still available. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

A version of this article, written by Tim Beyers, originally appeared on fool.com

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