Apple releases iTunes 4.9

Apple on Tuesday released iTunes 4.9, a new version of their digital music jukebox and music download store software for Mac OS X and Windows. The new release features the ability to browse and subscribe to “podcasts” — radio-style shows that you can download over the Internet and listen to either in iTunes or using an Apple iPod.

“We really think podcasting is the next generation of radio,” Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president of applications, told MacCentral. “We are bringing podcasts to the mainstream by making them easy to find, one-click subscribe and the ability to manage and listen to them directly within iTunes.”

Podcasting is the latest content revolution sweeping the Internet. The trend is similar to what blogs did several years ago, giving everyone a way to communicate on the Internet.

“Certainly there is a tremendous interest similar to what happened with Weblogs, where you are seeing pros and amateurs doing it,” said Cue. “I think this [podcasting] is taking off a lot faster.”

With the new version of iTunes released today, users can subscribe to over 3,000 free podcasts and have each new episode automatically delivered over the Internet to their computer and iPod. The directory available through iTunes features podcasts from ABC News, Adam Curry, BBC, Clear Channel, The Dawn and Drew Show, Disney, Engadget, ESPN, Newsweek and NPR member stations such as KCRW in Los Angeles and WGBH in Boston.

“It’s a great way to receive content and it’s a great way to deliver content -- it really levels the playing field between pros and amateurs,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of iPod Product Marketing. “It allows consumers to control what they want to listen to and when they want to listen to it. It works for both sides.”

The software has been released through Mac OS X’s Software Update system preferences pane, and it’s also available as a separate download from Apple’s Web site. System requirements call for Mac OS X v10.2.8 or later, G3/400MHz or faster, QuickTime 6.2 or later and 256MB RAM. Broadband Internet connection recommended for buying and streaming music.

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