Steve Jobs' Misguided Defence Of Bloated iTunes Updates

One of the more annoying features of iTunes is its insistence on a full-sized download every time there's even a minor update. Steve Jobs apparently thinks that a 90MB download is "not so big", but Australian users might beg to differ.

Search blogger Danny O'Sullivan wrote to Jobs' personal email address asking why iTunes update files were so big, and why Apple couldn't provide smaller patch releases. Jobs' reply?

It’s about the size of one downloaded album. Not so big.

It's a mildly clever reflex reply, but it's disappointing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, in many markets, 90MB is a pretty big deal. Lots of entry-level broadband plans in Australia still only have 200MB of data before going into excess charges; a single iTunes update can chew up half of that, and it's certainly not unheard of to see two of them in a month. Not everyone has the unlimited download options common in the US, but as the iPad's rollout has demonstrated, the US continues to represent the main focus for Apple's planning and thinking.

More tellingly, it doesn't answer the key technical question: why can't Apple just send out minor patches? Operating system designers routinely manage to do that, despite dealing with a far more complex set of device interactions and a larger user base.

There's a few possible answers. One might be that running a full installer creates a more reliable process, though I can't say that's always the case (as the accompanying screenshot suggests).

Another possible explanation is that keeping everything in one installer makes it harder to reverse-engineer the code, but that's not really a justification for creating an update process that often makes users think "I won't bother".

I know several people who hold off on anything other than major iTunes updates, figuring that it's not worth the hassle and the bandwidth. The danger with that approach is that it can spill over into other updates and patches, with possibly more dangerous consequences. And while Apple isn't directly responsible for those decisions, its bloated coding practices certainly encourage them. Thanks Neerav for the link!

iTunes Updates Not Too Big, Says Steve Jobs [Daggle]


    I'd imagine the motivation is similar to that of leaving flash out and preventing a lot of the modifications you can make to the ways windows runs. Whilst its better to do the best you can at something, even at the expense of the minor errors and glitches that result, its a lot easier to make a system with stability and speed you can gloat about, especially when its at the expense of features and accessibility that the majority of casual users don't have the critical understanding to realise they're missing out on.

    The updates annoy the hell out of me for the simple reasons that a few hundred mb worth of updates later, iTunes is still absolutely useless when it comes to the large library of music I work with. Its the only non-graphically-dense application I have ever run on this computer that runs with a few seconds to a few minutes lag between simple operations like changing artist names and adding art or new tracks.

    In house software on Ubuntu's new release allows for modification of ipods and iphones, as well as internet tethering, and is starting to look like a better option for the simple fact that I don't feel like I'm fighting with my gadgets for control.

      Exactly. It's easier not to (and doesn't impact enough people to affect profits).

      Acknowledging that 90Mb is bloated and Jobs' response is more of what I've come to expect from Apple when it comes to customer satisfaction, I'd like to play devil's advocate for a moment (if this affected me, I'd probably be annoyed too)...

      Are there really that many people with 200Mb plans as their _only_ source of internet data? If so, how do they keep everything else on their machine up-to-date, and what do they expect for a measly $10/month?

      I have 200Mb/month on my phone, but that's not where I obtain media or software updates from. I have ADSL for that, and that's what everyone had (or something like it) before mobile broadband plans became viable. Even my OTA firmware updates are done via wifi to an ADSL connection.

    i got my first apple product last week - an iphone - do you know how hard it is to join itunes without a credit card? (and trying to verify an account using anything other than safari!?)
    And do you know how hard it is to work with itunes to locate apps at the istore (or whatever it is!).
    My point is - as bandwidth ignorance above - I was deeply shocked to find how un-user-friendly/aware Apple was after years of fanboy exposure! I thought they were more sophisticated - but really - Apple sucks just as much as their competitors!

      Im not an apple fanboy at all, but you honestly found it difficult to register a credit card to an itunes account? It really is an easy process,
      Account Info->Credit card->enter card details->done

        No, he is saying that he found it difficult to reigster an iphone WITHOUT a credit card.

        He said 'without' a credit card, not with.
        That said, my 13 old doesn't have a credit card and runs iBloat

    Lazy patching, 'just ship the binary'.

    Bottom line, easier on them.

    Compare it to some other media players:

    Foobar2000 - 3MB
    Winamp - 10MB
    RhythmBox (GNU\Linux iTunes) - 15MB (depending on dependencies)
    Media player 11 (xp) - 25 MB, but it varies.

    These aren't updates, they are the full package too.

    I'm happy i moved to Ubuntu. Rhythmbox does a great job. Its what iTunes should be, and with 7000 songs it doesn't seem to have a single problem searching or listing them.

    Perhaps the Steve Jobs reality distortion field doesn't reach so far from Cupertino these days. Must be a side-effect of the Large Hadron Collider.

    It gives Apple more chance to sneak Safari and other unwantedware under the radar.

    Apple needs to get a big memo about iTunes overall crappiness. Every point release seems to reintroduce an old bug ( the last one being the iTunes reauthorization loop ). I heard one woman talking of "iTunes rage" at a dinner last month.

    After that Jobs can read his memo to Adobe about writing directly to the platform, strike out Adobe and Apple, replacing them respectively with Apple and Microsoft. iTunes is simply not a well-behaved Windows application, and does not follow well-established platform rules for design or file-system interactions.

    I have witnessed a 90MB download of iTunes that after installed on a machine which never had it, it failed to work. This indicated to me that the software is released without being checked. the next day it had to be downloaded again another 90MB which was a newer version which solved the non working issue. I don't remember seeing a changelog or version number, but I'm staying clear of iTunes.

    I'm in the Perth suburbs, and am stuck on dialup. I've tried to get better, but it's just not feasible. Which means a 90Meg download is just not possible. Sure, I have unlimited download, but it's slow. So slow that anything above 50 Meg will not complete overnight; and I'm unable to leave the modem on all day. So, after downloading the installer at work, I've had to make do with version 8 of iTunes, no matter how much it wants to update it.

    It also means my iPhone is stuck on a 2.0 OS :/

      Fin you should take a look at wireless.

    I'm sorry, but it's not the file size that bothers me more here, but the caps that still exist in Australia.

    iTunes has been this size download for quite some time, it is not just this version

    I recently switched to Mac, and so far haven't had any issues at all with itunes or updates. I have a rather large net cap though, so 90mb really doesn't bother me. Six months ago though, that would have been a major thing to download. Apple should consider that the rest of the world isn't up to America's standards yet, and will probably take a fair amount of time to get even close.

    Not to be glib about these large file sizes but it's another reason I love being a part of the iinet group of ISPs - unmetered downloads from Apple (although podcasts are excluded)!

    I agree, I get so bloody annoyed whenever an iTunes update comes along (all to regularly).

    I stick to updating sparsely.

    iTunes updates, just under 100MB no matter if it is a version upgrade or a bug-fix.

    iPhone updates, getting close to 300MB no matter if it is a version upgrade or a bug-fix.

    Anyone see a pattern?

    Glad some called them out on this BS. They do the same ting with thier Mac PC opererating system, routinely releasing 300-400MB updates every couple months.

    How about you hire some decent programmers Apple who know how to write code and patches and not just take the LAZY way out and make users download virutally a whole OS's worth of code just to fix a few lines of your buggy software.

    My favourite in recent times was the +300MB iPhone firmware "update" that was released just to fix ONE LINE of code to security flaw with how the phone handled SMS. LAZY apple very LAZY...

    I agree with B8two I think I would be more forgiving of the large download if there was a changelog so I could see what it is really changed so I know if the download is worth it.. but if they are too large to code an update, ain't no way they are going to do up a changelog to say what's changed

    I now only update with major changes

    Hmm, my mac software update is telling me my latest update for itunes is 102mb. And looking at what it is, it doesn't really change any aspect of itunes that I actually use as far as I can tell. I don't have an ipad so all that is moot, I don't even know what voiceover is let alone actually use it. So yeah, 102mb is a huge update for what it is imo.

    @John, maybe its just on macs, I don't know.. but I get a change log to see what is different in my imac software update dialogue box:

    iTunes 9.1.1 provides a number of important bug fixes, including:

    • Addresses several stability issues with VoiceOver
    • Addresses a usability issue with VoiceOver and Genius Mixes
    • Addresses issues with converting songs to 128 kbps AAC while syncing
    • Addresses other issues that improve stability and performance

    iTunes 9.1 comes with several new features and improvements, including:

    • Sync with iPad to enjoy your favorite music, movies, TV shows, books and more on the go

    • Organize and sync books you've downloaded from iBooks on iPad or added to your iTunes library

    • Rename, rearrange, or remove Genius Mixes

    For information on the security content of this update, please visit:

    I lament using itunes as much as anyone else. I have to say, I stopped downloading itunes updates a long time ago. Why should i wait a whole day to download an update that lets me connect an ipad to my laptop, when im not even going to buy an ipad?

    Someone needs to send this page to steve jobs so he can read it and the comments too.

    I am never going to use safari because i have firefox, I am never going to buy an ipad or an macbook. The only reason i have itunes it because i need to use it for my ipod, and there is no point using an alternative because steve jobs chucks a hissyfit and sues anyone who lets a program connect to their ipod.

    Yes and that credit card for the itunes store is appalling. why should i give apple my credit card details so i can download cd art for my music collection?

    If you absolutely have to have iTunes (I use it for basic CD burning and playlist making), I recommend downloading a switchless installer from this site.

    Easy, no mess install, doesn't install a bunch Apple crapware, and works pretty smoothly. QT Lite or Alternative required though.

    The issue should not be that the whole package needs to be downloaded, i do the same with my software, the whole thing needs to be downloaded otherwise you end up needing 30 different patch installers to build for each new release (with 31 needed for the next update) sure you can mitigate it saying the last 3 versions can get a patch update, still requires 3 times the release testing.

    The real issue is WTF is iTunes around 100meg for the installer, is it just not compressed or is it really ultra bloatware.

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