iTunes Match Subscribers Were Robbed

Voila_Capture 2016-01-31_03-29-58_PMApparently Apple announced two weeks ago that it was discontinuing iAd supported radio in iTunes. This passed quietly since few people use iTunes Radio. What was less clear and something I for one missed is that the ad-free streaming music that was part of the iTunes match service was also being axed in the process. While I never associated the two since I pay for iTunes Match was that Apple considered these one in the same features. I respectfully disagree, but they don’t listen to me. So what is it that I’m talking about you ask?

Up until January 28, one could click on any of the pre-configured genres of music under the Radio tab in iTunes and listen to music with ads periodically inserted into the stream. You could also create custom radio stream based on an artist of your choosing. If you subscribed to Apple Music or iTunes Match you were spared having to listen to the ads. While Apple Music has many more features than this, it was one that came along with the $9.99/mo service. iTunes Match ($24.99/yr) is an entirely different service that allows you to store your own music collection in iCloud and not having to store the content on either your computer or iOS device; a boon to those of us with minimal storage space on our phones or iPads that can be put to better use. However the ability to also listen to ad-free music was a nice bonus to Match subscribers, but alas, no more. Now if you click on one of the preconfigured radio stations you get a snarky pop-up inviting you to subscribe to Apple Music – yeh at 5 times the price. Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 4.52.19 PM

To be fair, there are a few radio stations that continue to work – at least for now. They are NPR, ESPN and BBC World Service. Most likely this is due to not having to pay song artists and greedy copyright holders that were previously being paid through iAds.

Frankly, I don’t care for any of the other features of Apple Music and I don’t subscribe. I really don’t care for the odious cacophony of Beat’s One or any of the DJ’s Dre and company have come up with. My musical tastes live in the past, a fuddy-duddy, I suppose, but there are more of us than Apple cares to admit. So Apple has quietly taken away a valuable feature of its iTunes Match service, not reduced the price nor compensated existing subscribers. If more people were interested, I would anticipate a class-action lawsuit with good rationale. Apple has been sued for less.

The Art of the GUI

HUI2When the Macintosh came along in 1984, many of us gravitated towards it over the Apple II or IBM PC largely because of its graphical user interface or GUI. The Mac’s GUI with its mouse, point, and click was much easier to use. Those of us who were not computer majors could increase our productivity while not having to learn many of the arcane intricacies needed to use a PC. The Mac’s GUI and many of its applications were carefully crafted to make a program’s use inherently apparent so that a user could become easily productive without constantly needing to read through a user manual. Indeed Mac manuals were notoriously minimal, and still are today even though applications have become much more powerful. The unfortunate thing about today’s applications are that their powerful options are no longer inherently apparent. With the zeal to create clean interfaces of today’s Apple applications the modern GUI can now be described more as “hover and discover”. A very thorough review of this situation can be read in a recent post by Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini, both Apple alumni, who brought us the original Apple GUI and are in large part responsible for the success of the Mac. If you are at all involved in creating applications for any computer system, I encourage you to read this article recently posted on Fast Company’s website.

Comcast – Time Warner Merger Fizzles

This Friday, the same day the Apple Watch started retail distribution, Comcast announced they were walking away from the deal they proposed 14 months earlier to acquire Time Warner Cable. In my opinion, this is great news for Indiana since part of the deal was that we were going to be shuffled off to a new company called Great Land Connections which would be a spin-off entity from Comcast and partially owned by Charter Communications. Like all cable companies, Charter has a less than stellar record amongst its existing customers. Even though Comcast has the worst reputation for customer satisfaction among American companies, I can’t help but think we’re better off with them rather than being slung around like a pawn in the trade-off Comcast was proposing to satisfy the Federal Trade Commission that the merger would not reduce competition. Great Land would likely not have the negotiating muscle to get as good a rates for media as Comcast, and it would also likely get Internet connections either through Charter or Comcast and be relegated to second tier performance and support. It’s the latter which worried me since neither AT&T through their U-verse service nor Charter provide anything close to the speed and bandwidth that Comcast provides. I currently get a minimum of 105 Mbps (usually around 120 Mbps) download speed and 20-25 Mbps upload speed. This is much greater than when I was with AT&T where I got <20 Mbps download and <1 Mbps upload speed for essentially the same price. According to their website, Charter offers only one Internet service tier at 60Mbps download and 4Mbps upload. While these speed differences have little impact when you’re just surfing the Net with a web browser, they significantly impact performance when you’re watching streaming video or using Facetime or Skype.

So while I have no love lost for Comcast as a company to do business with, I think we in Marion County are better off with them than being traded around as part of their proposed merger with Time Warner. Whether the deal for Charter to buy Bright House Networks which services 120,000 customers in Central Indiana in Hendricks, Boone, Hamilton, and Grant counties is affected by this latest news remains uncertain, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that deal also falls apart as well.