Apple iTunes 4.9 Goes Podcasting
Apple updated its iTunes music store today with iTunes 4.9, which has a heavy focus on supporting podcasting. Sharon Housley describes Podcasting as online audio content that is delivered via an RSS feed which gives far more options in terms of content and programming than radio does. Additionally, with Podcasting, listeners can determine the time and the place, meaning they decide what programming they want to receive and when they want to listen to it.
Apparently, Apple has been lagging with support of podcasts for a long time and the update with podcast support is seen as far overdue. Like the popularity of desktop search growing because of a hole formed by poor programming of Microsoft Windows, some podcast software, like iPodderX has become the choice of many while Apple was trying to figure out how they should address podcasting. Frank from Bisonium.com reviews the new Apple iTunes 4.9 and other tools such as iPodderX.
The killer on this update is the podcast support. Apple has really outdone themselves on this one. It isn’t perfect (yet), but it’s one heck of a promising start. It couldn’t be any easier to find and subscribe to a podcast (although the categories still lack depth). There are the usual and popular podcasts to choose from, but if your favorites aren’t listed, fret not. You can simply go to the advanced menu, click Subscribe to Podcast, and enter your favorite podcast feed URL and it will magically appear. If you have an audio file that you downloaded, you can also import that into iTunes as well. Apple has added a new setting under the AAC Encoding menu for Podcasts. The setting will encode your imported file at 64Kbps, which is more than ample for voice podcasts.
The way iTunes manages the podcasts is great. I have been a long time user of iPodderX and find it to be a great app. However, you have to configure every feed just right in order to have it dropped into your playlist (unless you just accept the default settings, which you may or may not like).
For me, iPodderX sometimes worked, sometimes it didn’t. iTunes has made the process incredibly easy by creating a Podcast menu in iTunes, just like you have the Music Store, party shuffle or radio menus. Better yet, when you sync up with your iPod, there is now a Podcast category and all your podcasts are neatly organized by title. One previously annoying thing about having certain podcasts on your iPod was that the interface was horrible. For certain podcasts with long names, it was impossible to easily see what podcast episode you were selecting. More tech savvy podcasters created their own naming conventions which made it a little easier to identify each podcast by its title, but it was a far from flawless method of overcoming the iPod’s limited interface. With the new iPod user interface (UI), the name of the podcast will scroll automatically and let you see the full name without having to actually play the podcast. Apple has also added a date field at the end of the title menu that is fixed, so that as the title scrolls, you will always see the date of that podcast. Nifty…VERY nifty. Apple has been listening indeed. If I am not mistaken, Leo Laporte himself had made that very suggestion on one of his many podcasts. No doubt that Adam Curry had a bit of input on these improvements as well.