A Trip Through the iTunes Store

March 17, 2012 by  

One of the great advantages of owning Apple products is having access to the pretty amazing iTunes Store. It doesn’t matter if you are a Mac or Windows user, other than the fact that you must have a computer to use the iTunes store, it’s pretty platform-agnostic.

Just what is the iTunes Store? To start with, it’s the starting point for filling your iPod or iPhone with top quality music without the hindrance of digital rights management (DRM) encoding.

For those of you who don’t know what DRM is, basically, it’s a method to prevent copying of digital content. Problem is, there are many different versions of DRM, most often not compatible with each other. Apple removed DRM protection from their music store files, but retains it for most video and e-book content. But I (again) digress…

At its heart is the iTunes application, which is used to manage libraries of music, video, e-books, podcasts, and mixed media content from iTunes University.

In the beginning, it was a music store, which provided an easy way for users of the iTunes application to download music at a fixed price of 99 cents per song and $9.99 per album. This model worked very well, made it extremely easy for customers to obtain the music they wanted, whether it was one track or the whole album. Unfortunately, the music industry felt Apple was gaining too much control and forced a change in pricing, and went so far as to block access to music from select record labels, while granting that same access to Apple’s competitors. Seems like the desire for profit by all concerned brought everyone back to the table, and now the iTunes store sells music from pretty much every label on the planet (except, it seems, for the jazz music I enjoy, but I’m not in their prime demographic). My music preferences notwithstanding, the iTunes Music Store has been an incredible success, with literally billions of songs downloaded since its inception in 2003.

As iPods became more sophisticated in the wake of online video content from YouTube and other sources, Apple cut deals with content producers to offer DRM-protected movies and TV shows at reasonable prices at the iTunes Store. In just a few years, the iTunes Store has become the dominant, though not exclusive, provider of movies, TV shows, and music videos. Again, it’s all possible and incredibly easy thanks to the iTunes application. Just log in to the store using the iTunes application, navigate around the store, choose what you want, pay, and download to your computer. Generally, you can share the content between up to five devices (iPods, iPhones, iPads, Macintosh computers, Windows computers, etc.) as long as they are registered—a simple process done within the iTunes application.

Podcasting came on the scene several years ago, thanks to Apple’s Garage Band and eBay’s Skype applications, which made it easy for budding content producers to record a show with professional results. Podcasts are like short radio talk shows, and run anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour or more. Most are free, and Apple makes it very easy for podcasters to park links to their shows, and permit users to subscribe, so that as new shows are posted to the Internet, the iTunes application can be set to download the new shows automatically.

iTunesU is a source for university-level lectures and other content, nearly all of it for free. Anything from history to philosophy to music studies, to physics, to pretty much any college course you can imagine can be downloaded from iTunesU

Audiobooks have been a mainstay of the iTunes Store for quite a while. These are professionally recorded audio versions of popular and classic printed books from big and small publishers. A variation on this supports the new iPad with e-books. E-books are books in text form, designed for optimum display on the lovely iPad screen. You turn pages by dragging your finger across the page, just like you go to the next page in a book make of “dead trees.”

iTunes Radio provides links to hundreds of radio stations that broadcast their programming over the internet—all free.

For you iPhone users, there are a few goodies available through the iTunes Store, and its sibling, the App Store.

First, you can get ringtones for your iPhone from the iTunes store, but the big daddy of them all is the App Store. Hundreds of thousands of applications written for the iPhone are available here. Apps can be anything from flatulence-generators to high-end mobile business applications, and everything in between. All use the iTunes interface to get the applications, most of which cost between 99 cents and $9.99 (gee, just like iTunes!).

The iTunes Store is a brilliant way to get content for your Apple hardware, no matter what you have, and a lot of it is free or very low cost. It’s easy to access, easy to search, and easy to pay. It has been said that Apple doesn’t make a great deal of money per transaction, but they sure make up for it in volume, and it helps sell billions of dollars of Apple-branded hardware. A sound business strategy in my view.

Author’s Note: This blog originally appeared, back in 2010, on the Palm Beach Business (http://www.pbbusiness.com) website.