I finally got around to updating iTunes to 10.4 this evening. Unlike Firefox 5 to Firefox 6, the difference in performance is like night and day!
iTunes wasn't always bad
Before even getting my first iPod, I first started using iTunes on my beautiful blueberry iMac DV with Mac OS 9. While Winamp (and XMMP) allowed you to generate playlists, they were shoehorned into a relatively small window in an application that otherwise still attempted to emulate the appearance of a physical sound deck and amplifier. Speaking of which, remember those SoundBlaster "Deck" applications for Windows 3.1? Those were the days ;).
By comparison to these, iTunes put the playlists front and centre in a large, easy to navigate window with controls optimised for computer screens. It was dead simple to use, and as a bonus it kept all your media organised on your hard drive automatically. No more unwieldly folders of MP3s!
A couple of years later I got my black and white 15GB iPod 3G (which I still use!) and was able to sync my music with my growing collection of (ahem) legally obtained media on iTunes, ironically faster than even my iPhone 4 can today with its inclusion of a FireWire cable. As is generally the case with Apple, it Just Worked™.
People only buy Apple stuff because of advertising
Over time, we moved to Mac OS X, and Apple released Windows users from that awful RealPlayer application by releasing a version for their platform. Remember RealPlayer? Sometimes when we talk about how Microsoft and some open source software projects can't design graphically pleasing and easy to use software, it pays to remember software like that!
Ironically, starting with version 5 (from my own memory), iTunes began to be the victim of its own success. With each iPod iteration, the application took on more roles to accommodate them, and the Carbon codebase which had enabled the transition from Mac OS 9 was starting to let it down, big time. As I said in October 2010 when it was really starting to get ridiculous:
Oh and by the way Apple, when are we getting a Cocoa version of iTunes?
What was once a nimble and usable application turned into a sluggish mess, so much so that applications were released specifically to allow people to not have to interact with it. And people (like me) paid for them!
Some iTunes KL nostalgia from January 2007 ;)
I belabour all this to put into context just how thrilled and happy (both!) I am with iTunes 10.4. Despite running on a 8 core Mac Pro with 6GiB of RAM, the previous iTunes simply couldn't handle scrolling through 40,000+ tracks. Changing metadata on multiple tracks used to be agonisingly slow, and adding new content even slower.
The new version is fast. Everything is instant. The window resizes without artefacting or jittering. It has visual consistency with other apps again. Hallelujah!
I'm sure I speak for all Mac users when I thank the iTunes team from the bottom of my heart, and ask them what the heck took them so long!