iTunes is one of these e-commerce systems, that, rather like Amazon.com, stands to become something more than an online retailer. A first glance suggests an aging and less-than-graceful application. The iTunes Store pop music motif looks like a kind of marketing-driven testament to bad taste. But under the covers, there is something else happening that suggests a permanent future for the service and its likelihood of growing importance. A few things to note:
1) The music library is growing extremely broad to include a full range of music that is hard if not impossible to find on CD. These include important Jazz musicians, especially classic works from the 20s, 30s and 40s, a very broad range of classical compositions, and international music that has a lower appeal in the US. I was surprised to find several versions of Charles Mingus's Tijuana Moods, including a recent re-release. If only the application got more attention in design to better automatically customize to a users profile and some help on navigation....
2) iTunes user comments continue to grow: it looks like Amazon may lose out in importance for album reviews. This is important, as it means that iTunes may be the first stop to find out about newer music.
3) The free content is growing, with podcasts available from many sources on almost any subject under the sun. This could be a daily draw for users from all over the world if the content was more openly accessible.
4) As a channel for Audible.com, it is now the premiere source of what spoken-word digital books.
5) Lastly, I highly recommend checking out iTunes U. There are a (still small) number of lectures from top tier universities, including UC Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, and others. Seriously, there is not anywhere else I can find that offers relatively in depth lectures on topics from Heidegger's Being and Time to Greek classical literature.
Let's see where things wind up in the next three years. Seems that iTunes may be stumbling into a transition from the trivial to the important.