Since iTunes was released today I figured I'd try it out and see how it worked. It was a relatively quick download and included a new QuickTime Player update as well. All told it was 54.8MB for my Mac Pro and 67.5MB for my MacBook Pro.
After a reboot iTunes was ready to roll. It asked me if I wanted to turn the Genius on. Doing so requires that your song information is sent to Apple in an anonymous form so that trends in music can be established and dynamic playlists created. Here's a link that tells you a little more about what Genius is actually doing behind the scenes.
The process of gathering this information, even on my monster of a Mac Pro with RAM and processors to spare, took a very, very long time. Granted, I have a rather large music collection, having put virtually every CD I had ever purchased into my collection, but wow. At least 3 hours, though it did work in the background and I could use iTunes to listen to my music while it was going on. Be prepared for a pretty long wait on this one.
The majority of the interface remains the same, though there are now some additional options when you select Grid view. Within the grid view you can see your collection by Albums, Artists, Genres or Composers. The album art is then displayed, which really makes me wish I was more diligent about grabbing album art for my ripped CDs. This mode operates incredibly fast, scrolling very quickly through the entire collection.
There is now a Genius Sidebar that appears to the right of a selected Playlist. Apple is incorporating a lot of the iTunes store in there, something that likely will generate some more sales. Why? Well, if you select a song in your collection it shows top albums from that artist, a list of the "Top Songs You're Missing" , an "Essentials" list and finally "Recommendations". Each of the items in the list has a Buy button in it so it's really simple to grab something that catches your fancy (ie. spend some money).
I was surprised to find that the "Top Songs You're Missing" seemed to take into account what I had pretty well. I have several duplicates because of "Greatest Hits" collections, yet even when that was the only version of the song it didn't appear to recommend a song I already owned.
Listening to the Genuis
Okay, so the cool part is selecting a song from the play list and clicking on the Genius button on the lower right status bar. It immediately creates a dynamic playlist from your existing collection. It's kind of like listening to a radio station that specializes in the genre that you like to listen to. I've never been a big fan of simply listening to the random songs in my collection because it will switch from Michael Andrew's version of Mad World to Burl Ives Holly Jolly Christmas. This technically will keep you listening to music that is basically similar, though it's not without flaws in the initial version.
Listening to current, popular music seemed to generate some pretty good playlists for me. It was only when I went out on the edge that it had some trouble. I was shocked that this is what I got when I opened my 80s collections and tried to Rick-Roll myself:
Oh well, maybe that was intentional on Apple's part.
Still, I do like the Genius feature and the generation of playlists. Great way of exploring my music without having to set up playlists beforehand.