Earlier today, News.com's Ina Fried notified me and CNET Anchordesk's Molly Wood that our podcasts were listed in the podcast directory that comes with the newly released iTunes 4.9 (imagine what 5.0 will bring?). A partial iTunes screenshot of how the listing for the podcasts that go with this blog (Between the Lines) appears below. Fried's note is what inspired me to download the newer
version of iTunes and the benefit of being able to subscribe to podcasts from within a media client (as opposed to having a separate podcatcher like iPodder to manage downloading, routing and integration) was simply undeniable. Unfortunately, because I am currently using an iRiver H320 that works best with Windows Media Player 10 (because of its support for the PlaysForSure specification), I almost never use iTunes. The double whammy is that the Windows Media Player doesn't yet offer the ability to subscribe to podcasts.
As a part of its eventual support for RSS, Microsoft will apparently make it possible to retrieve podcasts through an RSS pipe. In a recent demonstration of its support for RSS, Microsoft showed, rightfully, how RSS-delivered audio shouldn't be handled in a significantly different manner than other forms of RSS delivered multimedia content (ie: video, animation, etc). Microsoft is also making its extensions to RSS available via the Creative Commons Share-Alike deed. But if Microsoft really wants to make life easier for podcast lovers that use Windows Media and/or PlaysForSure-compliant mobile media devices, it'll copy what Apple has done with iTunes by enabling Windows Media Player as a podcatcher, and it will do it yesterday.
Another feature on my request list is bidirectional synchronization. It would be nice if Windows Media offered me the option of synchronizing audio found on my MP3 player (audio that it didn't put there in the first place) back to my PC. Finally, should Windows Media on the PocketPC gain some sort of podcatching capability, Microsoft should make sure that the end-user has the option of picking which Media Player (the PocketPC's or the just the PC's) does the actual podcatching. In other words, I wouldn't mind be able to subscribe to a podcast through the Media Player on my PocketPC. But I might want the Media Player on my PC to do the actual downloading and then have that audio transferred to the PocketPC on my next ActiveSync session. If I select the option to do this in my PocketPC-based Media Player, then the instruction to subscribe to a particular podcast should be passed back to the Windows Media client on the PC during the next ActiveSynch session.