Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Apple iTunes - a Blojan

I get to deal with some of the world's most complex applications. And, now as I get ever more known for identifying for application compatibility issues (note: you will notice I didn't use the word "respected") I get to play with complex applications that don't install, that don't work and generally do not have documentation. Applications like AutoCAD, Reuters (hey, it requires 13 separate MSI's to install), Bloomberg and my nemesis; Microsoft Office.

But every once in a while, I get a little surprise - a common, seemingly innocuous little application or utility that once delved into becomes a quagmire of misplaced good-intentions. And this collection of good ideas (hey, let's include Outlook synchronization) which seems completely "right" at the time of development all adds up to build a monster. And that monster today folks is the latest release of iTunes. 

This installation;  of a simple application to manage your music collection and send music collection to a remote, portal hard-drive (your iPod) now includes the following;

  • AppleMobileDeviceSupport.msi - hardware/device level synchronisation services
  • AppleSoftwareUpdate.msi - a software update platform
  • Bonjour.msi - a file sharing service
  • iTunes.msi - the big-daddy UI for managing your music and videos
  • MobileMe.msi - the connector application for the Apple MobileMe internet service
  • QuickTime.msi - the Apple video viewing engine

What we have here  is not your standard application bloatware ( This is something more meaningful  than standard feature creep (Hey, let's add a file-sharing service to this installation)... This is the beginnings of a PLATFORM.  A bloated Trojan horse?

A Blojan - is what I call Strategic Feature Creep.

The result of my iTunes installation is that iTunes can act as a synchronization "engine" for my desktop, for my laptop, for my iPod and my internet based services such as Google and MobileMe. The Apple Bonjour application alone installs 2 services, plus the AppleMobileDeviceSupport installation add it's own device drivers and services to your desktop/laptop environment. 

To give you some facts/figures,  the iTunes installation packages contains;

  • Over 4,500 files and registry settings
  • Installs hardware/device drivers
  • Installs (and set running in the background) three services
  • Installs hooks into Outlook, Google
  • Takes over 500 desktop settings 
  • Grabs over 40 file extensions 
  • Updates most Explorer auto-play options 

These background services (always running, always waiting) are not huge memory hogs but they do add to your overall memory footprint - and Apple is building on these - to put Apple at the centre of your listening, viewing and sharing experience.

Which is fine - but I would really prefer to have known about the installation of these additional "bits" prior to the installation my simple music management software - iTunes. 

And, the massive impact that this installation has had on my machine.

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