Should Apple Port the iLife Suite?

by James R. Stoup Dec 23, 2005

Anyone who has ever tried to use WinAmp, MusicMatch or (shudder) Windows Media Player, to play music will readily admit that iTunes is a vastly superior product. It has a more intuitive interface, better feature set and complete integration with the iTunes Music Store. Overall it is a perfect example of how well Apple can design software. And, I think when Apple released a Windows compatible version, it greatly contributed to the success of the iPod and the ITMS. So, in retrospect, it was a no-brainer for Apple to port iTunes over to Windows. Even though it let Windows users share the fun, as it were, and gave them an alternative to the amazingly painful WMP. In fact, the argument could be made that porting iTunes over to Windows encouraged Windows users to buy iPods which, in turn, boosted Mac sales via the “halo effect”.

So, if we can all agree that porting iTunes over was a good move the question naturally arises, “should Apple port the entire iLife suite over?” The argument goes something like this:

Those in favor
Porting the iLife suite makes good business sense
Those in favor of this move argue that there isn’t really a cohesive set of applications that could provide any real competition. Thus, Apple could move in and sweep the rug out from the competition and dominate the digital media front much like MS dominates the office front. Here is a breakdown of iLife and its competition.

Picasa, from Google, could compete with iPhoto effectively since it is a very well rounded program. Both have excellent storage capabilities, powerful search features and basic image correction tools. Personally I prefer iPhoto, but Google’s product does have a large following as well. Since Picasa is free iPhoto faces stiff competition in this area (the only area that iLife lags in).

Next is Garage Band, and it is a truly wonderful application for musicians that has no equivalent (where ease of use or price is a factor) on the Windows side. It is an amazing piece of software that has helped many pieces of horrible music see the light of day. Anyone who has played around with this software has realized the amazing potential it has for those of us who are actually musically inclined.

And of course, nothing really competes with the iMovie/iDVD combo for ease of use and interoperability. Make the movie in one application and then seamlessly ship it over to another, how much better does it get? Using iDVD especially, is very easy because of the virtually non-existant learning curve. Everything makes sense and this allows people who would otherwise never touch a DVD burner, to crank out home movies by the dozen.

So, from the competition side of things it would seem to be a good move for Apple because with the exception of Picasa, there isn’t really anything else out there that can compete on the three levels of price, ease of use and interoperability. Of course the point of porting all of these wonderful applications to Windows is to convince those users that the Mac platform really is the best way to operate. Selling copies of iLife (and thus making money off of it) would just be a secondary consideration. Think of this strategy as another incarnation of the “halo effect”. Also known as the bait-and-switch technique, this involves first getting consumers hooked on your products while they are Windows users and then steadily trying to turn them into Mac users. Much like the iPod, people would use the iLife product and think “if everything Apple does is as good as this then maybe I really do need to switch.” As an added twist Apple could keep its pro line of applications strictly on the Mac. Thus, once people became addicted to using iLife they would have to upgrade to a Mac to use Final Cut Studio. Bottom line selling iLife to Windows users is just another attempt at making the “halo effect” more pronounced.

Those against
Porting the iLife suite dilutes the Mac platform
Those against this move tend to riot at the mere idea of offering such an olive branch to Windows users. Part of the thinking is selfish in nature, “if you want to play with our toys you have to come to our playground.” Mac users tend to be a smug, self assured lot and some of our mystique will certainly be lost if Windows users find that they can have their cake and eat it too. The question will naturally be asked “why spend all of that money for a Mac and then waste all of that time learning a new operating system when I can enjoy their best applications for a mere $79?” Wouldn’t Apple be selling themselves short by practically giving away one of the core strengths of their platform, namely multimedia creation?

Apple users would, of course, point out that the “experience” would be better on a Mac but would that really matter to the majority of consumers? I don’t think it would. Let’s face it, if they are using Windows then they are well aquatinted with the concept of “good enough”. So, even if the software ran better on a Mac that still wouldn’t be enough of a reason for people switch operating systems. Apple would have slit their own wrist by equalizing the playing field to their extreme disadvantage. Remember, the iLife suite is one of the few, major consumer grade productivity suites that are completely locked to the Mac platform. Removing that lock seriously hurts the argument that Macs are the best solution for “media creation” on the consumer scale.

In writing this article I solicited the opinions of this site’s creator, Hadley Stern, as well as contributing writer Chris Howard. I wanted to thank them for their input and give them credit for helping me with today’s piece. When I questioned both of them Mr. Stern was against Apple porting the iLife suite because he feared it would hurt Apple’s hardware sales and cause them to seem irrelevant in the long run. Mr. Howard felt the opposite, that another “halo effect” could be accomplished if people just knew the quality of Apple’s product lines. He based this opinion on the assumption that iLife would face no serious, coordinated competition and that only consumer applications be considered for release. That means Final Cut, DVD Studio Pro and the rest would remain strictly Mac-only products.

In evaluating these two views I find myself agreeing with Mr. Stern as I feel that Apple would loose too much of itself in this process to ever make it worth while. But I could be wrong, maybe Mr. Jobs has a secret plan that will be revealed next month. Time will tell.


  • Yeah, let’s kill pro-Mac arguments by making them all cross-platform *g*

    iLife draws one of its major strengths from the great integration of the apps within each other, within OS X & .mac. Would that be even possible on Windows? Maybe. The apps also rely on technology that is simply not present in Windows, core graphics, core audio… why do you think Keynote presentations exported to .ppt look so much less appealing?

    What would really make sense is a port of iChat AV, to both Win & Linux.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Dec 23, 2005 Posts: 371
  • I doubt Apple would do it, and I think the “pro” part of the article is based on the false assumption that what worked for iTunes would work for the other apps. I doubt many Windows users would pay money for a suite of Apple software (not to mention the fact that it wouldn’t even occur to most that they even could—it would take a HUGE marketing effort to advertise the fact that iLife now “does Windows”). Even if, like iTunes, Apple gave the software away, I doubt it would lead to many switchers. The average computer user is pretty sloth-like in its ways. Just look at how tough a time Firefox is having breaking into the browser market. Though FF is a far superior browser to IE, the latter still holds well over 80 percent market share. The reason Windows users have adopted iTunes is that they HAVE to, and it’s free. There’s no compelling reason (right now,  at least) for them to adopt the rest of the iLife suite.

    petergarner had this to say on Dec 23, 2005 Posts: 2
  • I don’t see it happening and am “agin” it.

    First, Apple has invested significant resources in developing iLife and this investment was to make the Macs more competitive in the market place.  Sure, iTunes was ported, but that was to allow Apple to sell more songs and iTunes in bringing in money every second of the day.  It also has sold a lot of iPods. The port, in other words was to generate revenues on a continual basis - something that a full iLife suite will not do.

    Second:  iLife continues to be a driving force in selling people Macs - especially “switchers”.  Front Row is a dramatic enhancement in terms of a selling tool - talked to the Apple Rep at CompUSA and he indicated that Front Row was the most important factor in selling switchers an iMac, and he was sold out at the time.  With the best guess being that Front Row will be part of iLife 06 Apple is simply enhancing the sales tools for Macs - no way should that be given away or ported in any way.

    In terms of developing a halo effect, I think it’s best to leave that to the iPod.  Seems to be working very well and when that halo effect gets a potential customer to look at the Mac they will be very pleased to see the “other” iLife apps - especially if Front Row is included in iLife 06.  Porting iLife to XP simply takes away that feature - and it’s a very good feature.

    I don’t see Apple investing their resources in porting iLife.  With half a billion dollars a year in R&D there are too many exciting things they can spend the money on.

    MacKen had this to say on Dec 23, 2005 Posts: 88
  • Porting ilife would be a pretty dumb idea.

    What would be the point? Mainly you are completely disregarding the cost of support. You cannot just toss out a major, major integrated piece of software that links to camcorders, midi devices and digital cameras on the PC side without having to add about 5,000 people on telephone support since the Pc is a melange of incompatibable drivers, dll’s, software and yes even virii and of course the famous error messages such as ‘cannot locate camcorder.’

    So, you would have to sell ilife for about $499 to properly support it and even that is a bargain - not only wouldn’t Apple sell a lot at $499 since that’s what people paid for their PC - people like you would accuse Apple of not playing fairly and over-pricing.

    There is no easy to use editing software on the PC - the Media 100 comes close - I think it sells for about $1,000. Yea, Picasa is free as long as you have an internet connection and as noted, the closest GarageBand is another $1,000 app on the PC.

    Apple is already offering Pc users a huge bargain. Buy a MINI for $499 - get about $2,500 worth of software (not to mention a virii free platform AND OSX - how much is that worth???!!!) AND you can almost certainly use the same monitor, keyboard and mouse - WHAT A HUGE BARGAIN!

    You are looking at the problem ALL WRONG.

    Yes, it’s “another OS” but so is every consumer electronics product you buy. Everyone’s cell phone will eventually cost them $499 - how difficult and limiting is that OS? Even if you never add another app to the Mac and use it as some streaming station for music, movies and photos and presumably FRONT ROW any day now? People are paying $2,500 for a PC media center to do essentially the same thing! (You can add an eyetv for $200 and it adds no DRM).

    So, ilife is already available to PC users. It’s $499+ It’s still a HUGE HUGE bargain.

    That’s what you should be pointing out instead of trying to saddle the overwrought PC OS with an app that would task the PC to summon up all its “prowess” to be more like a Mac? While the Mac programmers are near geniuses, if MS with 40,000 employees can’t pull that off, how do you expect Apple to?

    jbelkin had this to say on Dec 23, 2005 Posts: 41
  • I got on board with iLife 04 when I purchased my new iMac and I quickly updated to 05 the next month.  It was a main contributor as to why I chose to stay with an Apple computer (my first ‘puter was a 98 iMac… which looks like the new eMac today).  I called the sales people at Mac when I got down to the last few computers I’d be willing to buy.

    Garage Band.  I was looking for a program where I could write down some of my compositions and be able to hear them back.  When the entire set up came to my door step, including the M-Audio Key station (synth) and a Sony Mic, I was blown away.  Not only could I put my songs in a format to hear back, I’ve made recordings, as if I hired an entire band.  And I had instant replay.  Plus, I could burn a CD when the chart was complete.  FANTASTIC!  This opened an entire world to me.

    (a side bar;  one of my profs that heard one of my CDs I recorded and burnt entirely on my iMac wanted to know how I got all those good musicians together.  He thought it must have cost me a fortune to get so many musicians together to record that hour long CD… of course it was just me, myself and I.  I didn’t have to worry about the band being upset with me when I’d call for a recording session anytime I wanted!  ha It was just my 9 1/2 fingers and voice.  I even sang the background female vocals by changing the voice parameters after I sang in the line.)

    I’ve been writing music for decades.  I recorded on 45 and 33 LPs back in the 70s.  I know, what’s that?  This is simply great.

    Musicians, good or wanna-be, simply don’t know what they’re missing if they own a *gag, sputter* windows toy.

    So I guess I’m for it.  I’m not versed in marketing and know nothing of sales.  That end of it just confuses me.  ha What I do know is a I have a few friends that have some strange thing where you can write music and hear some antiquated replay, but not even close to the level of garage band.

    To me, all the rest of the stuff, besides iTunes and iDVD are just thrown in stuff as I could care less about iMovie and doing bank books or pie charts.

    SirGeorge53 had this to say on Dec 23, 2005 Posts: 27
  • I think everyone missed the most obvious reason this would be ported.

    To give windows users the same level of reasons to buy an ipod as a mac user.  Sure, they have itunes, and itunes works with airport express from a Windows computer.

    What happens when apple upgrades their airport product to include video, so that you can be running Front Row on your television which is wirelessly connected to your computer in the office downstairs.  Steve Jobs said that he didn’t think computers belonged in the living room…...

    I don’t think all of ilife will be ported, but I do think that all of the applications needed to run Front Row will be.  More importantly, they will be sold WITH HARDWARE, the upgraded airport express which has video output, and an IR port for the remote.

    Windows users generally won’t buy software that they can get elsewhere cheaper, but if that software comes bundled with hardware, such as the ipod with itunes, I think there may be a win-win scenario for both opinions.  Apple sells both hardware in the form of airport express and the IR remote and bundles it with all of the digital life applications including Front Row.

    Not only will they get a killer solution, but they will beat those nasty Windows pirates as well if you need the hardware to use the software!!!

    rosswbailey had this to say on Dec 23, 2005 Posts: 1
  • I feel this is a really strange thing to think about.

    The reason Apple ported iTunes was because it needed it on Windows to provide a good synching solution for the iPod (previously MusicMatch was provided for Windows iPods).

    QuickTime was actually the forerunner of Apple’s Window software which started in the mid-90s, and that was done to establish the APIs and formats of this very encompassing media platform, and more recently, to provide a foundation for much of iTunes’ playback capabilities.  This is very different from the purpose of a standalone app.

    Although Apple also made a Windows compatible AppleWorks, (this was a very hush hush release, done solely for an educational niche), standalone apps are not in its interest.

    In summary, a Windows iLife ports are a wild idea and are simply not going to happen because:

    1.  iLife is an incentive to buy a Mac.

    2.  iTunes isn’t “really” part of the paid-for/new-Mac iLife suite, it’s free for everyone.  So iTunes should not be seen as the “first piece” of iLife that has been ported, it’s an entirely separate issue.

    3.  iPhoto / iMovie / iDVD / GarageBand don’t encourage people to buy a video iPod, they encourage people to buy a Mac.

    4.  Despite much popular misinformation, Apple still makes a lot more money from Mac hardware and software sales than iPods (25%).

    5.  Apple doesn’t need free apps to promote its brand under Windows and/or stick it to Microsoft, which are what Picasa is used for by Google.

    And potentially the biggest reason:

    6.  With the Intel switch, Mac hardware is soon going to become possible to run Windows software.  A great selling point will be that existing Windows users can be encouraged to buy a Mac as their next computer because they won’t lose the ability to run their old software, PLUS they’ll get all the great Mac-only software ... like iLife.

    That would make it a REALLY bad time to encourage users to stay with their PC and Windows!

    dotmike had this to say on Dec 23, 2005 Posts: 6
  • I think Apple could market iLife and OS X Tiger at $499, and it comes with a free Mac Mini. That’s far more appealing than the other way around in my opinion =)

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Dec 24, 2005 Posts: 299
  • If Apple was selling camcorders and dvd players that just work better with content produced with the iLife app suite then it would make sense to port it.  I agree with others here that porting iLife would dilute one reason people have for switching.

    Garage band?  I know musicians who went out and bought a Mini just to have that and I’ve encouraged a few friends to get a mini or imac when they were sick of spyware and problems getting the free software that came with their dvd burners to make a video dvd on their Windows machines.  iMovie/iDVD put a big smile on their face and since then they’ve also converted a couple people.

    Porting it would be a bad thing..

    lcraft had this to say on Dec 24, 2005 Posts: 1
  • b/c I’m no marketing expert, I’ll agree with dotmike.  iLife is a good reason for people to buy an Apple computer.  But the thing that sticks in the back of my mind is I find Window users cheap.  They look for the cheapest way to get an app, program or what ever.  They don’t look for quality and in the end, becomes the best buy.  Of course, this is a huge generality, but through the years, this has been my observation.  “It’s cheaper to get this window app…”  etc.

    SirGeorge53 had this to say on Dec 24, 2005 Posts: 27
  • ^ Good point actually. It’s the reason why many people get a PC over a Mac in the first place: “so what if it’s better? Look at that price, what do you think I am? Someone who wants to pay a premium for quality? Hah!”

    Luke Mildenhall-Ward had this to say on Dec 27, 2005 Posts: 299
  • They won’t have to port it because OS X will be running on a bog standard intel computer shortly. I love the whole Mac experience (well designed hardware etc) but ‘see’ Apple becoming a software company. They have a good OS, several first-class apps and in the end they will still offer high-end (read high style too) computers and AV kit but will draw the bulk of their revenue from the software side.

    So iLife will be available to the Windows masses but the Windows masses will be on OS X.

    nascar had this to say on Dec 27, 2005 Posts: 5
  • Well, I’m a Windows user and have been since 3.1. I honestly remember not caring about Macintosh even when OS X 10.0/10.1 came out. Something about it always put me off, like the OS was “empty” or a little limited. Well, along comes 10.4 and this thing called iLife ‘05 and it finally got my attention. So, with the long-awaited purchase of a 1.8 GHz DualCore G5 PowerMac and OS X 10.4, I’ve expierienced (for about a month now) what makes a Mac so different from a Windows PC. (iLife and Front Row especially.)

    —I do beleive my jaw hit the floor when I played with Garageband 2.0 for the first time. I now plan on getting the Jam Packs just for the mere sake of playing with it.
    I think I got giddy when I played around with Front Row, too. (using the Front Row enabler program.) It was like I was using a humungous iPod on my screen…

    Even though I am still a Windows user at heart, I think Mac should keep iLife to themselves. Though iLife would be a nice thing to have for Windows, it would also be (as I have read above) hard to feed to windows users. I agree, most windows users wouldn’t know of its existence. Furthermore, most windows users would have no use for it for lack of interest. The small percentage of those who would buy it could then be further broken down into users who would resort to pirating it instead of actually buying it.

    Overall, it’s the way that the iLife applications integrate in with Mac OS X that makes them so valuable. iLife should be an essential part of any Mac users application folder. It seems like these programs on a windows PC would just “be there.” Sort of like your car having a different colored door after getting it replaced. As it also stands with Windows XP, it also seems like the workflow and elegance of these programs would be seriously hindered. Like Front Row—I cannot see Front Row on Windows. It seems like Windows would have to keep a process continually open [consuming resources] in order to have Front Row launch upon calling it. Windows has Widgets, yes, but I was always pissed about Windows widgets because even if they were not being used, the widgets remained open as seperate running programs in the background. I have to say I was NOT surprised to find that iTunes ended up running more efficiently on my G5 than my Windows PC. I built my windows PC from scratch, and it’s hardware is much more powerful than my G5—and my PC has only one processor. But, the G5 made me realize that the operating system you use can mean the difference between max performance and max squandered power. If Microsoft dosen’t get Vista done right next year, I think I may discontinue the upkeep of my windows system and full convert.

    Having now a good understanding of both operating systems, (and owning both types of systems,) I seriously prefer all creative software for my macintosh. I would definately not want to see iLife abused by Windows. So even though I do all of my creative work (and real work) on my G5, I pretty much now only return to my windows PC to do the one thing I designed it for: gaming.

    fox-orian had this to say on Dec 27, 2005 Posts: 1
  • iLife on Windows would be useful because the hardest part about switching is software compatiblity. Sure you and I know that conversion is no problem, but Joe Average User doesn’t want to even have to consider that.

    If he is using MS Office, Movie Maker, Picasa and Acid Music Studio then they’re going to be reluctant to switch.

    If he is using MS Office, iMovie, iPhoto and GarageBand on Windows then switching becomes a viable option.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Dec 28, 2005 Posts: 1209
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