iOS Podcasts app bypasses iTunes
By Stephen WITHERS
The arrival of the Podcasts app for iOS is another sign that the Mac is no longer the centre of the Apple universe.
Don't get me wrong - I use my iPod mini almost exclusively for listening to podcasts, and I can see why it would be more convenient to download them directly to a device rather than using iTunes as an intermediary. Well, except for the fact that the iPod mini only has 4GB of storage, and I have a lot more than 4GB of material in the queue. I mostly listen to podcast fiction of various kinds, so currency is not an issue.
But Podcasts reportedly makes accommodation for paid podcast subscriptions, and I wouldn't be surprised if that feature appears in a future version of iTunes. Presumably the model will be much the same as for apps, and Apple will take a percentage of the revenue and pay the rest to the podcaster.
We're all aware that 'content providers' from newspaper publishers down to special-interest podcasters and bloggers are struggling to generate sufficient income to justify their time and money investment. Apple does seem to have the process of handling small payments down pat, and many millions of us have iTunes Store accounts.
The other good thing is that podcasters using the iTunes Store to monetise their offerings would have no reason to use MP3 rather than AAC. The latter saves space, and also allows the inclusion of chapter markers which makes it easier to skip over a section that you're not interested in, and - if you're a bedtime listener - easier to find the spot where you fell asleep first time around. There's practically no point in offering a free MP3 version of a podcast alongside paid iTunes subscriptions, as almost everyone would go that way instead.
I'm aware that some people donate to their favourite podcasts, but the impression I get from podcasters is that they are a very small minority. Still, making it easier to pay would presumably raise those numbers.
The downside (from a selfish perspective) is that it may mean that I'll have to decide whether to pay to continue to listen to certain podcasts or find alternatives that remain free. And as we're hearing so often in the context of our two major newspaper publishers' plans for paywalls, it is unlikely that people will pay when there's a free and 'good enough' alternative.
But the more iOS devices are sold and the closer they come to being completely independent of a host computer, the more the Mqc becomes a minority platform within Apple.
Just to ensure this week's piece isn't completely in the realms of Produce and Carry, I'll close with a question: what do you think about the apparent inclusion of an automatic Security Update feature (separate from Software Update) in Mountain Lion? I've got mixed feelings, but if I have to choose, I'll go for prompt patching.
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