Apple's conferences always cause a stir, and this year was no different. Key takeaways from WWDC 2019 included the announcement of the most powerful (and eye-wateringly expensive) Mac ever – the new Mac Pro, as well as a stand for it that costs almost $1,000, and the introduction of a new App Store for the Apple Watch. And in the spirit of out with the old, in with the new, Apple also announced it is ditching its once much-loved music service, iTunes.
The now bloated iTunes will be replaced by newer apps that form part of Apple's Services offering: Apple Music, Apple TV and Apple Podcasts. iTunes was once the apple of Apple's eye/i (sorry), and its removal suggests a much wider brand positioning shift from the company. It also suggests that Apple could be slowly phasing out its 'i'. There is, after all, no 'i' in many of Apple's latest products, including Apple Music, HomePod, Apple Watch and Apple Pay.
A brand moving forward
There will be some mourning the loss of what is now an almost retro music service, but the loss of iTunes, and potentially the 'i' in Apple's products may actually signify Apple staying ahead of the curve when it comes to meeting their customers' expectations.
According to Manfredi Ricca, global chief strategy officer at Interbrand, this is just another example of Apple being Apple, that is: focusing on modernity, introducing innovative new products, emphasising ideas and experience over purchases and products, and crucially, ditching old ideas and products that no longer work.
The discontinuation of iTunes shows that Apple is looking forwards and not backwards, says Ricci, and is "addressing customer expectations through utility, another distinctive trait in Apple’s approach."
As Apple has slowly and discreetly dropped the 'i' symbol, it has introduced a new era, says Ricci, including a host of new products that don't need the 'i' to show they're part of Apple.
What does this mean for Apple's 'i'?
Why was the 'i' so important anyway? What does it actually stand for? In 1998, the 'i' in 'iMac' meant 'internet', but Steve Jobs later added that it could also mean 'individual', 'instruct', 'inform' and 'inspire'. These are all fairly vague sorts of words, and today, companies all over the world try to make themselves synonymous with such ideas.
One reason for ditching that 'i' could be that having the word 'internet' before your products sounds pretty old-fashioned in 2019. The internet is now everywhere, so distinguishing between an 'internet phone' (have you ever thought of your iPhone like that?) and just a phone, or 'tunes from the internet' (iTunes sounds even older now) versus just 'tunes' seems almost redundant. Also, when something is called Apple 'something', you can use the Apple logo with the name, à la Apple Music, and that looks pretty sweet (see above).
According to Ricci, the 'i' itself doesn't really matter. "Whether the i-prefix will stay or not is, in a sense, marginal," he says, "However, its gradual removal makes Apple’s offer simpler to navigate and more cohesive, and prepares the ground for a true subscription-based business model, where content becomes increasingly important."
Apple's move to Services
It seems, then, that the removal of iTunes is a symbol of Apple's focus on Services, which includes not only Apple Music, but iCloud, the iTunes Store, and Apple Pay. "And for good reason," says Ricci. "Analysts have been paying a lot of attention to Apple’s Services, not least of all because it’s shown solid growth."
Apple has also recognised that with the power of its brand – one that has a logo so great it's one of our favourite textless logos – it can transform its business model with much less risk. As for its 'i', we can imagine it being phased out further, although we predict that Apple will keep the 'i' in 'iPhone' and 'iPad', because these products and brand names are such a big part of everyday life. Plus, we can't imagine Apple calling its tablets 'Pads', and Apple Pads sounds like a new form of sanitary towel.
As for Apple being the most forward-thinking brand on the planet, we're pretty convinced. Though this is a company that has also had its fair share of misses, along with the hits (see the most beautiful and the ugliest Apple products ever made). It also remains to be seen whether Apple Music will ever seriously take on Spotify, and whether the $1,000 monitor stand gamble will pay off.