iPod becomes colorful and powerful

Apple Computer Inc. released new software Tuesday designed to make it easier for users to listen to the increasingly popular, but largely unstructured podcast offerings, informs Associated Press.

The company also announced that it was merging its iPod and iPod Photo product lines, creating a single line of MP3 players that all feature color displays with the ability to view photos and slide shows as well as play music.

"Podcasting is the next generation of radio," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement. Podcasting is a method of sharing files on the Internet, often allowing users to subscribe to a feed and receive new files automatically by subscription, usually at no cost, which makes it similar to radio programs. Anyone can become a Web broadcaster, writes the New York Times. Although downloading audio files over the Internet has been possible for years, the growing popularity of portable MP3 players and cellphones that play digital audio files is creating demand for online distribution.

The new offerings come amid warnings from some analysts that cell-phone makers could threaten Apple's grip on the market for digital-music players. "We do think cell phones are a legitimate threat but it could end up like what happened to the camera-phone market," said Shaw Wu, an analyst for American Technology Research in San Francisco, cited by AP. "Cameras may have helped the cell phone guys to get customers to buy new phones and upgrade but it didn't slow down the digital-camera market."

The software is available for both Mac and Windows computers.

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