WSJ: iTunes 11 arriving tomorrow

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple is ready to finally push iTunes 11 right out of the gate Thursday, November 29. Apple delayed the software for a month because the redesigned media player was “taking longer than expected” and the company wanted to “take a little extra time to get it right”. The Journal reports that the new iTunes has been delayed due to unspecified “engineering issues” that apparently required parts to be rebuilt…

Mentioning that Eddy Cue, 48, Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services, has risen as “a prime architect of Apple’s software strategy” and “one of the most important product voices”, author Jessica E. Lessin writes for the Journal:

This week, Mr. Cue faces a test of how well Apple can keep up in online services with the launch of a new desktop version of iTunes, which is expected as soon as Thursday.

There you have it.

Considering The Wall Street Journal is Apple’s unofficial mouthpiece, it’s now fairly safe to assume that Apple indeed will keep its promise of launching the redesigned jukebox software before the end of November.

Feiyr, a digital music distribution service which acts as an interface between rights owners and digital retailers, last week advised its members that iTunes 11 “is about to be released within the next days”.

According to Feiyr’s email communication, the software will feature redesigned artist pages with pictures and nice photo galleries. Apple’s iTunes 11 promo page briefly mentions several other features, such as a new mini player, improved iCloud integration, new library and expanded views and more.

iTunes now features simplified views of exactly what you want. Looking for an album? Click Music and that’s all you’ll see. Do the same for movies, TV shows, apps — and everything else. It’s browsing made more intuitive.

This is how the new library view looks like.

As for the expanded view of your music:

Select one of your albums and now it will expand in place. That means you can see all the songs on the album, click Play, and keep right on browsing without having to click back to your library. You’ll also see In the Store recommendations for similar albums you’ll want to check out.

I have my doubts about merging my own music and the iTunes Store content, seen below.

Apple also teases bonus features, such as In the Store recommendations, the Up Next feature letting you queue songs, the Preview History button for a quick rundown of all the iTunes Store media you’ve sampled and more.

The new iTunes was originally scheduled to debut in October, per Apple’s executives who set the release date publicly during September’s iPad mini media event.

The WSJ story  goes on to note that Cue, previously profiled as Apple’s Mr. Fixer, is “proceeding cautiously” with the rumored Apple-branded music streaming service. iTunes 11, according to sources, is more closely integrated with iCloud “and resembles the mobile version”.

The report paints Cue, who also handles media deals with content owners, largely in favorable light:

Mr. Cue is also a champion of the Apple way: Entering new areas patiently and slowly and preaching the need to put the customer first. To negotiating partners, he epitomizes the company’s penchant for secrecy with a poker face that media companies scramble to decipher.

The executive has been described as “more a strategist and tactician than manager” as he stays focused on a few top priorities. Cue, according to unnamed employees will often “swoop in to get things done himself, paying little attention to smaller projects or personnel matters”.

Apple’s spokesman Tom Neumayr a month ago told Peter Kafka of AllThingsD in response to the iTunes 11 delay:

The new iTunes is taking longer than expected and we wanted to take a little extra time to get it right. We look forward to releasing this new version of iTunes with its dramatically simpler and cleaner interface, and seamless integration with iCloud before the end of November.

Place your bets now: is the new iTunes a completely new code written from scratch or just a cleverly marketed redesigned version of the same decade-old resource hog we love to hate?