SAN JOSE, Calif.—After much speculation and fanfare in the press, Apple confirmed today that it will sunset iTunes in the next version of macOS and spin its functionality into three new apps—Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, and Apple TV. As we noted earlier, this marks the end of an era of sorts on the Mac—but there were plenty of unanswered questions.
What features will Music retain from iTunes? And what happens to Windows users who are dependent on iTunes?
While some details are still fuzzy and will remain that way until we start digging into the beta releases, we got some broad answers from Apple on those top-level questions.
Old iTunes libraries and files
Apple Music in macOS Catalina will import users’ existing music libraries from iTunes in their entirety, Apple says. That includes not just music purchased on iTunes, but rips from CDs, MP3s, and the like added from other sources.
Further, the existing feature that synced users’ non-iTunes files to the cloud will continue to work, and of course, users will still be able to buy songs from Apple. Apple is not turning Apple Music into a streaming-only experience. For the most part, the end of iTunes seems to be an end in name only: key features will be retained in the Music app.
Syncing iPhones, iPads, and iPods
Apple already explained during the keynote that syncing with and managing your iOS devices from your Mac—which used to be an iTunes task—will now happen within Finder, Apple’s file-management application. When you plug your iPhone, iPod, or iPad in, you’ll see it in the sidebar for Finder just like you would any external drive or USB stick.
But when you click it, you won’t just see a file system like you would with those accessories. Instead, you will be presented with an interface very similar to the one you’re used to in iTunes, with many (if not all) of the same features. It’s certainly a more natural place for this to happen, given that it more closely resembles the experience you have when you plug other devices in to your Mac.
iTunes in Windows
Many people use iTunes to manage their media libraries in Windows—not just music, but videos and podcasts, too. Apple announced today that iTunes will be broken into multiple applications in macOS, but the company didn’t specify onstage what will happen to the same program in Windows.
The answer, it turns out, is not much. Apple says users of iTunes under Microsoft Windows will not see any changes. It won’t be broken up into several apps; it will work just like it does now. However, Apple did not provide any clarification about what support will be like for future features. The company simply says that Windows users will continue to have the same experience as before and that it is not announcing any plans to end support for iTunes in Windows.
But keep in mind: that only means . Apple might one day bring an Apple Music application to Windows just as it has to Android. But just as the iTunes era seems to be ending for the Mac, it will continue for the immediately foreseeable future in Windows—so iTunes is not really dead. At least not yet.
4K HDR and Dolby Atmos on the Mac
Apple also clarified that you’ll be able to output 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos content from the Apple TV macOS app to your TV via HDMI with an adapter. For Atmos, though, you’ll need a Mac laptop introduced in 2018 or later.
So basically, your recent Mac can be a full-fledged Apple TV 4K. Only Apple’s new, ultra-high-priced pro monitor can really do HDR like a modern TV can, so we were curious exactly what the point was of HDR in the Mac Apple TV app. This is it—at least until more true HDR displays potentially come to Macs later.