iTunes U: a clever addition to Apple’s apps?

I posted last year on the runaway success of Apple's App Store, where you can easily and cheaply download loads of cool applications for your iPhone or iPod Touch. In the first 6 months of opening the people have downloaded 300 million applications and some estimates suggest Apple will generate up to $1.2 billion a year in revenue from the store.

As a fully signed and paid up iPhone-aholic I can say from personal experience that the App Store is stroke of pure genius. Beyond the pure revenue stream, these apps truly do turn your iPhone into an essential life support device that is incredibly "sticky" (i.e. gets used a lot). Consider a business trip. The iPhone has my diary, contacts, music and movies. But I also use it to check in to my flight, check flight times, store a PDF with my intinerary, navigate lost taxi drivers to my hotel with the GPS and on and on.

And this week Apple launched a new service innovation that hopes to make the iPhone even stickier. iTunes U is a whole boatload of new content with an educational bent. The nice strapline for launch it is "Forever Curious".

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Great idea….

I think the concept of iTunes U is inspired. Self-improvement software has been a key part of the success of the Nintendo DS, especially the Brain Training programme advertised on TV with Nicole Kidman. It appeals to a whole new adult audience, and makes it more acceptable for kids.

…. shame about the execution

However, the execution of iTunes U is really crap. The content is a real bag of bizare stuff from no-name sources. Click on Business, and the new and notable downloads are not from Harvard Business School or INSEAD, they're from The Australian School of Business. Who?

Also, the navigation is not very sophisticated, with only 13 categories, so you get a hotch potch of stuff all mixed up. Feels like in the rush to have a full store of content Apple filled it with sub-standard content.

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Net, it all feels very nerdy, and very un-Apple. I would have expected much cooler content, and more about self-improvement than hard-core learning.

I expect to see a major re-vamp in the coming months…