Annoying software: Is Apple iTunes the new AOL?

Back in 2000 when AOL was king -- and incredibly irritating. Apple's iTunes seems to be catching up. Here are seven reasons why iTunes may be ready to don our Annoying Software crown.

4. Proprietary Problems

Both AOL and iTunes don't work well, or at all, with outside services. AOL's instant-messaging protocol is fully able to communicate only with the Google Talk instant-messaging service. It can't do the same with the IM platforms from Microsoft or Yahoo.

AOL also has a walled garden of tools and content accessible exclusively to users of its software. Its proprietary nature has changed a lot from the days when you could check your AOL e-mail only through AOL software. But you still need to use its software to access many AOL chat rooms, premium multimedia features, and parental controls.

iTunes has its own propensity for proprietary features. Want to play a non-iTunes video on your iPod? To do so for free, you'll have to hunt down a solid third-party tool for converting videos. Conversely, iTunes doesn't work with Microsoft's Zune digital audio device or other MP3 players.

Updated: Also, despite Apple's recent decision to sell some DRM-free songs, most iTunes tunes still play only on iPods, a couple of Motorola phones, or a computer with iTunes software on it. (DRM-free songs from iTunes, which used to cost 30 cents more than regular US$0.99 purchases, now are similarly priced.)

5. Lowest-Common-Denominator Attitudes

Just as AOL made getting on the Internet stupid-proof in the 1990s, Apple's iTunes made buying and downloading digital music and adding it to your iPod easy in the early 2000s. That ease of use comes with trade-offs. For example, iTunes does not allow you to add mobile-phone ring tones to your iPhone that you didn't purchase from Apple. And, as previously mentioned, iTunes won't transcode videos automatically — you have to use third-party software.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Spring

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?