RealTime IT News

Apple's iPod Shuffle Stifles Podcasting

SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple's latest iPod may be winning accolades from music lovers but it is raising eyebrows in the blogosphere.

When CEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off the flash-memory iPod shuffle, a few gasps could be heard from bloggers who post audio files of their conversations -- a practice commonly referred to as podcasting.

For those new to the concept, podcasting is a version of Webcasting that first became popular with iPod owners. According to online encyclopedia Wikipedia, podcasters make their audio programs available for download to portable digital audio devices (iPod, MP3 player, PDA). Similar to the way TiVo time-shifts video, podcasting lets the audience download and listen later.

The practice has taken off like wildfire. Directory site Podcasting.net lists approximately 1,000 sites with new ones added every day. The audio streams offer topics ranging from computers and tech news to sports and even pets.

But while a 40GB iPod or even a 20GB iPod mini is great for holding an hour-long podcast, Apple's iPod shuffle just doesn't measure up for taking your favorite online talk show on the road.

"It's neither a boon nor a bust. It's just not useful for listening to podcasts," said Doc Searls, a respected blogger and co-author of the book Cluetrain Manifesto. "Navigating inside a long podcast -- and many are very long -- is difficult even with a regular iPod, as it is with all players. So, rather than fix the one feature that's lame about the iPod, they eliminated it completely."

Smaller and lighter than a pack of gum, iPod shuffle comes in two models: a 512MB model that holds up to 120 songs for $99 and its 1GB cousin that costs $149. The device comes without a screen but the hard drive is not susceptible to motion damage.

iPod Shuffle
The included software includes an AutoFill feature, which automatically selects songs from a user's music library and the iPod's set up lets a user manually allocate how much space can be reserved for music files and how much can be used for data files.

Veteran podcaster and former MTV host Adam Curry said the iPod shuffle makes no sense at all -- and certainly not for podcasting.

"Apple hasn't picked up on podcasting because they are thinking about how things work from Apple to the rest of the world. They are not seeing what is happening," Curry said on his Thursday show, Daily Source Code.

While the iPod shuffle may be good as a starter device, given his preference, Curry commented that he'd rather use a different player altogether.

Apple is expecting big things with the iPod shuffle. During his keynote at Macworld Expo, Jobs said the tiny player should help close the 35 percent gap of the digital music player market share that Apple does not already own. Jobs said Apple sold more than 4.5 million iPods in the last three months. The CEO also said new deals with Mercedes, Toyota, Nissan, Volvo and Ferrari should also help drive sales of the iPod.

"Apple produced a product they think will grab market share in the flash-based digital music player market," Searls told internetnews.com. "Given their success with the iPod and the iPod Mini, why argue with that? I wish 'em well. I also wish they'd make an iPod that's better for podcast listening."