Feeds

Apple pushes Podcasts through iTunes

Devils seen dancing in details

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

"Podcasting goes mainstream", announced Apple on Tuesday, with the launch of version 4.9 of its iTunes music jukebox software - at the same time as upgrading and simplifying its iPod (but not iPod mini) line by giving them all colour screens and the ability to show album cover artwork or photos.

The "white iPods" now come in just two sizes, 20GB and 60GB, priced at £209 and £299 (prices inc VAT). Gone is the 30GB iPod Photo model, no doubt to resurface as the lower end in a year or so. The flash-based 1GB iPod shuffle drops in price to £89; iPod minis remain untouched.

It's another careful move by Apple, which retains a dominant position in the MP3 player market. Expectations of an upgrade to the iPod shuffle to a 2GB model (perhaps with a screen) and larger capacities on the iPod mini appear overdone. Clearly, Apple is not rushing to overhaul product lines while its rivals keep fighting among themselves for market share.

The new iPods will also have "an easy to use Podcast menu, including bookmarking within a Podcast and the ability to display Podcast artwork in colour."

Ah yes, podcasts. Steve Jobs pre-announced that iTunes would support the playback of the meanderings of random people - sorry, "the next generation of radio" according to Jobs - at May's D: All Things Digital conference. And now it's come to pass, with the newest version of iTunes, which includes a "Podcasts" button that is second down in the list, below the user's main Library. That means Apple is rating it more important than the Party Shuffle feature, internet radio stations *and* the iTunes Music Store, if the ordering of those buttons means anything.

Click the button and you're taken to the iTunes Music Store, where a little nook offers the chance to subscribe with one click to any or all of hundreds of podcasts. Anyone can get their own podcast added, through another one-click process that will lead to an Apple team (size unknown) checking out your would-be podcast.

The devil though is in the detail, and we think there's a lot of detail to be worked through here. First, being an iTunes podcast might be more blessing than curse. If even a sizeable proportion of the millions of iTunes users tune into a site, it'll get Slashdotted – because Apple isn't hosting these podcasts, just providing a symlink to the original. Bandwidth busting ahoy!

Secondly, how can Apple be sure that the caffeine-fuelled progenitors of mid-morning mumbling aren't trying to be DJs and playing loads of songs (aka "copyrighted material")? Answer: it can't. Stan Ng who once had the unhappy job of being Apple's worldwide product marketing director for the Cube but is now happily installed as WWPMD for the iPod, said: "There will be a self-regulatory aspect; listeners can click a link to report that something's offensive or infringing." Apple might dodge this bullet, since it's only providing a link, rather than hosting infringing stuff.

But even so that leads us to the third: what about podcasts in different languages or from different cultures which exhort people to nastiness? It's not beyond the bounds of possibility that someone in Baghdad might want to make a podcast and want it to get the widest possible audience. (Think Bin Laden.) Is anyone apart from the spooks going to recognise it? Or what about podcasts that are legal in one country (because of American's First Amendment) but illegal in another (say, because it libels someone in the UK)? There's huge potential for Apple to get caught up in legal rows, even without hosting the content.

The Demon ruling might force it to remove in the UK a link to a podcast in the UK that would be legal in the US.

And finally, what about all the money? Wasn't this upgrade going to turn podcasts into digital banknote presses?

Sorry, folks. At least for now, Apple is showing the price of all podcasts as "free". But the technology clearly exists to start charging, since it's coming to you through the iTunes Music Store. Mr Ng wouldn't confirm or deny this, only saying that Apple "doesn't have any announcements on that aspect today".

Afternote: presently the most subscribed podcast is the BBC's News page. In fact of the top ten, four are from the BBC (In Our Time, the Today programme, and From Our Own Correspondent). So much for the grassroots, hmm?®

Related stories

Apple Euro iTunes stores sell 50m songs year one
Sirius jumps on podcast bandwagon
Apple sued over iTunes - again
iPod Health Warnings - view the best

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
White? Male? You work in tech? Let us guess ... Twitter? We KNEW it!
Grim diversity numbers dumped alongside Facebook earnings
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.