What is iTunes?

Jessica Ellis

The iTunes program is a downloadable media player available from computer giant Apple, Inc. In addition to being able to play media files such as music and movies, the application also connects to the iTunes store, an enormous resource for free and purchasable digital media. Since its release in 2001, iTunes has become a near standard application for most computer users, and has greatly fueled the digital media revolution.

Handheld MP3 player with earbud headphones.
Handheld MP3 player with earbud headphones.

The original model for the program was not developed by Apple, Inc. Instead, the initial application was created as a music player called SoundJam MP, distributed by software publisher Casady & Greene in 1999. Apple, Inc acquired the rights to the program and began adapting the user interface and adding CD-burning capabilities. In January, 2001, the first version of the program was released to near instant success. Since then, the company has released several updated versions, and continues to improve the abilities and functions of the program with each new release.

The iTunes program allows users to listen to music online.
The iTunes program allows users to listen to music online.

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Apple, Inc made the program a necessary application for use with their unbelievably popular portable music player, the iPod. In order to manage media files, add new content or edit content, the iPod must work with iTunes. However, recent versions of the program make it compatible with other MP3 players, though in the opinion of many experts, it continues to work best with other Apple products.

Interestingly, the program was released many months before the first iPods, and nearly years before the attached online music store became available. At first, the program acted simply as an organizational application for arranging music stored on your computer and burning CDs. Music could also be easily uploaded onto the computer through the program, and stored in an easily accessible library. Until the release of the iPod, the opening of the iTunes store, and more recently the addition of video downloading, the potential of the program was hardly understood.

In the 4.3 version of the program, released in 2005, video capabilities were added. Shortly afterward, through the iTunes store, movies, video podcasts and television programs were now available to download and play on the computer or on video-capable portable players. This function added completely new levels to the program, and helped increase its already impressive popularity.

The invention and promotion of portable digital media has revolutionized both the music and computer industry. In many ways, iTunes is as groundbreaking as the invention of video tapes or CDs. As a reaction to the copyright debacle following the widespread use of file-sharing programs such as Napster, Apple’s music program has allowed the legal and safe distribution of media over the internet. Online stores still remain in their infancy, only a few years after the wide availability of the internet, but iTunes is clearly an example of the inherent commercial possibilities of the World Wide Web.

Through the iTunes store, television programs are available to download and play on a computer.
Through the iTunes store, television programs are available to download and play on a computer.

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Discussion Comments


I really like using iTunes, and I think it works really well with my iPods. I don't like the way you have to download iTunes in full every time there's an upgrade though.

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