Podcasting: The Hottest Thing on the Planet?
In case you listened to Steve Job's Keynote presentation at the WWDC you probably noticed that he spoke about potcasting and that it is a hot thing. Now when Apple is jumping on the podcast bandwagon and probably Microsoft is doing it quite soon then it must be a cool thing, don't you think.
Apple's plans are to include a podcasting aggregator into iTunes that is linked with their music store so that one can access the podcasts quite easily. Nevertheless if you need some extended features or having more control over what you get you may want to use a different aggregator to access and download podcasts. Most of them provide a way to put the podcasts into iTunes or other players anyhow. In happened that I am one of the developers on a Java based podcast aggregator called jPodder (please do not confuse it with iPodder which is Python based). We just recently released version 0.9 having very advanced features like ID3 tag rewriting on MP3 files which you may see as columns in iTunes or plugins to support many players instead of one like iTunes. I am considering writing a plugin that stores podcasts directly in an iPod rather than going through iTunes.
Now why would someone use a podcast aggregator if the stuff is already put into iTunes. A reason maybe the same as why someone is going through the hassle to use Firefox rather then Internet Explorer (on Windows). But there are others more subtle reasons to do so. iTunes is tightly integrated with their music store and therefore the features provided are there to either lure you into Apple's business model or facilitate that business. That said everything that is threatening their business is not going in there. In addition features that have nothing to do with their business are only being added to iTunes if they help them to increase their market share.
Imagine that you have a video player (or any type of portable mini computer) and you not only want to listen to podcasts but also see videocasts. These videos are going to be large and you are probably not going to wait for them to download until you can watch them. Nevertheless you could download them over night and watch them afterwards whenever you like. In addition a video player can play podcasts, blogs and maybe other stuff that comes along. This means a good news aggregator (one that can handle RSS feeds) would be able to deal with all sorts of content and you can configure that aggregator to download all the stuff you are interested into and the very next day you head out into the world with all the stuff on your player ready to enjoy.
Still in the near future Apple or Microsoft is providing features in their players to deal with additional content but Apple will keep iTunes simple meaning that you are limited in how to manage the media files and the download process. In jPodder we want to give the user the ability to configure it to their needs so that one can manage a big number of files with various sizes and content.