Friday, May 22, 2009

Move to Mac? Not based on iTunes

With the death of my old MP3 player I have been trying to use both my iPod Touch and iTunes to play my podcasts. As I have said before, I am not happy that iTunes, natively, does not allow you to adjust the playback speed of the file. The iPod will allow a 20% increase in speed for audio books. There is an easy to flag files as an audio book and it does seem to work.

One option to get variable playback speeds I read was to use Quicktime Pro. At $29.99 it is not a bad option. I double checking something online about the variable playback speed in Quicktime Pro and found that in Quicktime 7.0 variable playback was built in. No need to go Pro. Bonus!

Well I did try it on one file and truth be told the playback at double speed was pretty nasty. Admittedly the file I picked had bad audio to start with. I will try it again with another file. This still leaves me with the problem of updating the play count in iTunes manually. No worse the using Windows Media Player, which only gives me a 40% increase. Then again Windows Media Player also has a MUCH better interface than either iTunes or Quicktime.

The frustrating part of this is, at least according to the Wikipedia entry for iTunes, is iTunes is just a front end for the QuickTime player. It is not like the ability to do this is not there (assuming Wikipedia is correct about that).

For a company that prides itself on a superior user experience and a slick user interface, they sure do fall short with iTunes on Windows. They can't even play the "it's Windows" card - the Apple version of iTunes has the same problems. To me they are missing two key features:

  1. The Now Playing list - a temporary play list that you can add files to on the fly. When you close down the player, the play list goes away. The allows the cherry picking of files to listen to now without creating a formal play list and then deleting the files. (Oh, and shuffle does not work if you have audio books from places like Podiobooks. Some of your files have to be played in the correct order.)
  2. Variable playback speed for all files. At least all audio files. Hey, I don't even mind a little "chipmunking" of the voices. If I am playing the files back faster, I expect the tone to shift a little.

One other minor feature, that was there at one point, is the ability to create smart play lists based upon something in the file name. That would allow me to have the unplayed podcast play list to use. Another example of how iTunes falls short of Windows Media Player.

This may not sound like a lot, but for me these are critical parts of my listening experience. These are things that their users have asked for in the past (partially). If Apple cannot beat Windows with a simple media player, how can I trust their machines to be better?

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