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iTunes Adding Podcasting Support

Apple plans to make the next versions of its iTunes and iPod software support and organize podcasts.

The updated versions will allow users of Apple's music management program and integrated online music store to locate and download podcasts, which are MP3 files that are posted on weblogs to be downloaded and played on mobile hardware like the iPod or on desktop PCs.

"With the next version of iTunes, due within 60 days, there will now be an easy way for everyone to find and subscribe to this new Internet radio phenomenon right from within iTunes," the company said in a statement.

Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder and CEO, unveiled the plan and demonstrated how Apple's podcasting system would work this week at the D: All Things Digital conference in California.

According Tim Bajarin, an analyst at market research firm Creative Strategies, who attended the conference, Jobs said the program will allow user to access, organize and synchronize podcasts to any digital music player.

"Podcasts are catching on like wildfire," Bajarin said. "What Jobs demoed was the ability to add this layer of podcast management and -- more important, an auto download -- to an iPod."

"It makes it much easier to have access, organize and sync podcasts to an iPod," he added.

Bajarin said podcasts combine the subscription capabilities of RSS with digital audio files to automate the process of downloading them from the Internet to desktop computers and digital audio players.

He said that as far as he was aware, Apple is the first to offer the service, but he expects copycats soon to follow.

"I'm sure Microsoft , Real Networks and Napster will be next," he said.

The updates are essentially an add-on for the iPod, but Bajarin said he could see the commercial viability of selling podcasts, as well as music, in the near future.

The rapid growth of podcasting combined with the millions of portable digital music player owners makes the format a challenge to conventional radio's broadcasting and business model, Bajarin said.

A Pew Internet and American Life study estimated that more than 22 million American adults own iPods or MP3 players, and that 29 percent of them have downloaded podcasts.



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