Today Apple released iTunes 4.9 which includes support for free podcasts which you can download from within the iTunes program. iTunes will check every day, every hour, or whatever you tell it for new shows from many different sources — currently 3000 — that include ABC, public radio, ESPN, and even the San Francisco Chronicle. When iTunes finds a new show from one of the sources you’ve subscribed to, it downloads the audio to your computer. iTunes will also synch programs to to your iPod if you’ve told it to.
Nice! Even on its first day, there are many news programs and geek radio shows available — and they’re ones which I try to listen to, time permitting. With this iTunes service and my iPod, I can take updated BBC news or Future Tense or whatever with me and catch up at the gym or in the car.
There are also comedy, entertainment, sports, travel, etc. categories of podcasts.
The podcast subscription service and content are free. Apple’s Steve Jobs was interviewed by ABC news and said that Apple plans on keeping its service free. But, he said he thinks that some content providers may start including commercials as part of their programs.
The current downside is a klunky user interface. It took me several minutes pawing through the Apple website before I stumbled upon a way to see the directory of available podcasts. Hint: Run your updated iTunes program. Click on Podcasts icon. Then go to the bottom of the screen and click on “Podcast Directory” and you’ll be taken to the iStore podcast showcase page. Then click on ANY podcast category link in the box on the lower left of the iTunes podcast store. At that point your iTunes will show a list of available podcasts. Whew.
Also, the subscription to a podcast doesn’t always download the available programs, sometimes — I haven’t figure out when yet — you have to click “Get” for the individual editions to download. And, when you do “subscribe” or “get”, iTunes jumps from the Music Store folder where the directory is located back to the Podcasts folder where you manage the subscriptions. You have click back to the store folder to find more providers you want to subscribe to.
Still, … iTune’s podcasts are a great add-on for the iPod. It’s wonderful to have a product I already own get better… and I don’t have to pay for the enhancement.