I write software for a living. Sometimes the developer of a software program can spend years adding features to software and nevertheless miss the one glaring omission that almost everyone who has used the software has noticed. I worked for one company on a software project ( that shall remain nameless ) where there seemed to be a single serious flaw that was being ignored. Instead everyone was busy with other pet projects. I asked people why this thing wasn't top priority and was told to get busy on other things. I asked again and again and finally just gave up. This company later went out of business and I never did get to say "I told you so."
Well the other day Apple finally added the one small feature to iTunes and its iPods that has been missing since day 1. And while it was unlikely to put Apple out of business or destroy the iPod, I have to say it makes a huge difference for me in how I enjoy my iPod and music on iTunes. They eliminated the gaps. I'm talking about the ones between the songs. I'm talking about the ones between the songs that don't belong there in the first place. If you are an audiophile and really want to listen to music the way it was recorded and the way the artist intended for it to be heard then this one little feature has been plaguing you since iTunes showed up on the scene. Now it is history. Finally album shuffle really starts to make sense.
Thank god I'll never have to say I told you so. Or will I?
It seems that gapless playback may be working well for me, but all the Windows iTunes users out there may regret the day that iTunes went gapless. Apparently the feature seems to be affecting playback of songs on Windows. Add to that the fact that the new album artwork download feature will download and replace art you already have in you music library with album art that is wrong and you've got a recipe for a version of iTunes that should be avoided.
Yes it seems that iTunes will pick up just about any album art it has that matches a song you have on your disk. This gets all kinds of interesting results. Typically you see artwork from compilation CDs replacing the artwork from the song's original CD (or album) artwork. Not cool when you purchased the original (or ripped it from your own CD collection) and now the new album art says something like "K-tel" on it.
Another feature of the new artwork is that it is being saved in another location instead of with the song meta-data as it was previously. The upshot of this is that when you copy the song to another place the artwork doesn't go with it. And if you were backing up your iTunes library you now have another folder you need to track separately.
So my advice is that if you are on the Mac and you want to enjoy gapless playback, you can probably go ahead and upgrade to iTunes 7 and turn off the album artwork feature. If you are on Windows, wait!