iTunes is bloated… or is it?

Thu, Sep 30, 2010


Planned or not, iTunes quickly became the epicenter of Apple’s mobile strategy, first with the iPod, next with the iPhone, and more recently with the iPad. The first thing you gotta do when you bring home a new iPod Touch or iPhone is plug that bad boy into iTunes. Over the past few years, Apple was able to leverage the success of its hardware into an iTunes customer base that now numbers over 160 million users.

But as time has marched on, iTunes has evolved from merely a music player into a media hub used for downloading apps, watching videos, downloading all sorts of media content, and of course, syncing downloaded content to an assortment of Apple hardware.

iTunes, though, and for as much as it does, is hardly everybody’s favorite application, and indeed, Windows users in particular seem to especially prone to levying complaints on Apple’s media player. But a broader issue, and one that is being asked with increasing frequency, is whether or not iTunes is becoming too bloated.

Addressing that issue, Kirk McElhearn of TidBITS lays out a lot of interesting points worth contemplation. First off, one has to define what “bloated” actually means. Should we, for example, play close attention to how big an application is? McElhearn doesn’t think so.

While the Wikipedia definition of software bloat is partially valid, I think the first part of it to discount is that of a “larger installation footprint.” The iTunes 10.0 application on Mac OS X takes up 146.6 MB. In these days of terabyte hard disks – or disks offering several hundred gigabytes on older Macs – this is hardly a large application. Without looking at large-scale application suites such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite, I have several applications on my Mac that are larger than iTunes. Adobe Reader takes up 219 MB; Bento is 188 MB; and two of the iWork programs – Pages and Keynote – each exceed 290 MB.

There’s a lot more in the full article and it’s definitely worth poring over. From the perception that iTunes is bloated to the increasing complexity of the software, McElhearn’s analysis is quite comprehensive and compelling. Check it out over here.


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