Yesterday saw the release of iTunes 4.9 from Apple Computer. For those who do not know, iTunes is Apples digital jukebox software used for playing MP3 audio files, it has many features and was mainly developed to interact with apples popular iPod portable music player to allow you to manage your songs. Since the original version of iTunes the software has expanded and provided those who use it a simple interface to organize, play, share, and import your favorite songs. Since iTunes works with any USB or Firewire MP3 player it is also highly flexible in its user base. You do not need to be an iPod owner to benefit from the power of iTunes.
The largest and by far the most impacting ability of the iTunes software is access to Apples online music store. This store features digital versions of all your favorite songs at a very low cost of 99 cents per song. So instead of buying that CD for 14 dollars to get that one or two songs you like, you now can download them for 99 cents. Once you download the song you can burn it to a CD to play in your car or portable CD player, or you can upload it to your portable MP3 player.
Recent additions to the software however are worth noting. As of version 4.8 Apple has included support for videos either from their music store or a user can add his or her own just like they would add an MP3 track. This one feature has turned iTunes from a digital audio jukebox to a digital media center, and this is not where it stops. As of yesterday, and very quick on the heals of the release of version 4.8 was version 4.9. This new version had only two new features, the first being enhanced handling of video files, but the by far the biggest news to hit was the inclusion of podcasting support.
Podcasting was basically invented by Adam Curry during the summer of 2004. It takes its name from the terms iPod and broadcasting, amalgamating the name of the popular MP3 player with broadcasting. The idea behind it is any person can record, and post an audio file of their content where people like me can download it and listen using our computers, or with our personal MP3 devices listen while on the go. The functionality of this is by far no ground breaking process but the fact that Apple has recognized this new medium and supported it by building support in to its products is amazing. It helps legitimize home based broadcasters, much like what was attempted with the “blogging” sites. Except in this case Apple is using their huge brand appeal to even push the availability of the content, helping legitimize this new form of media delivery.
While Apple states they will not censor the podcasts or restrict access to their distribution service, the iTunes Music Store. One can’t help but wonder what is in this for Apple computer? Obviously continued and enhanced branding is taking place which will in ways turn in to financial gains but will Apple be able to turn the content delivery in to a form of profit? I myself hope not and pled to them to maintain a free distribution system. By giving thousands of podcast developers out there a way to access the eighteen million iTunes users will surly turn in to profit though brand loyalty.
I wonder what Apple will come up with next?