Apple is flexing its “stupid muscle” this week. Before I go on and explain, let me say that I am quickly becoming an Apple fan. Though I personally use Linux, and probably will for many years to come, I bought an iPod just over a year ago. The iPod convinced me that Apple has some brains and thought processes firing in the right direction. I even bought my wife a Mac mini as soon as the Intel versions hit the web. Very impressed. I would recommend a Mac over Windows to just about anyone. I would even recommend Mac over Linux for most people.
That said, Apple is shooting themselves in the foot. And, I think they deserve to loose that foot to lead poisoning from the bullet they put in there.
They have started cracking down on companies that use the word “pod” in their products. I think this is fair depending on what the product is. Certainly any type of portable media device should not contain the word “pod.” But now they are going after the word “podcast.”
Apple did not come up with the word podcast. To get a full history of where the word comes from you need to read the Wikipedia article about it. Suffice it to say, it was not an Apple invention.
For those of you who don’t know here is an explanation of the technology. RSS is a technology that allows you to subscribe to websites to see when new content is uploaded. In the ancient past (5-10 years ago) you could subscribe to a service that would go look at websites for you and send you an email when the site was updated [if anyone finds a link to one of those old services let me know]. That was back when pages were pretty static. RSS takes that same idea, but instead of a third party looking at the page, you have an RSS reader that goes and gets the new content and lets you read it in the reader, or gives you a link so you can read it at the page. This is great for sites that change a lot, particularly blogs. www.mythoughtspot.com has an RSS feed that you can subscribe to and your reader can let you know when I update the site.
Podcasting is an extension of that really cool technology. Instead of text and pictures, it is audio (or video) files. When a new file is uploaded, your RSS reader can go and download the file for you and it is ready for you to listen to or watch at your convenience. This special RSS reader is called a podcatcher (unless Apple has already banned the use of that word too). iTunes is a good example of a podcatcher. It happens to be the one I use (on the wife’s Mac). I used to be able to list several other podcatching software, but Apple has already sued all of them and they have had to change their names and I have not kept up with the name changes. The whole idea is that they are RSS readers for audio and video files.
That brings us to the current news. This week Apple sent a cease and desist letter to Podcast Ready. I am not entirely sure what all they do. But part of what they do is provide software that allows the mp3 player to act as its own podcatcher. You don’t even need to have software on the computer. You just plug in the Podcast Ready device into a USB port and it goes and downloads the new podcasts on its own. It does not have to be an mp3 player either. For example, I have a USB drive I can run their software on. Then when I get into my truck that plays mp3s from a USB drive, I could just pop in the drive and my podcasts would be there. How cool is that?
Well, they are being hounded by Apple for using the word podcast. Now the question was proposed by Leo over at TWiT if podcasts should change their name. Part of the argument for changing the name is that we would put this garbage by Apple behind us. The argument against it is mostly two fold. One is that if you give in, then Apple wins. What makes that different from the idiocy of Microsoft and their strong arming? Secondly, “podcast” is a pretty entrenched word. It is even officially recognized in Webster’s Dictionary.
Some of the suggestions for a name change include: netcast, webcast, audiocast, videocast (because podcasts include both audio and video some people suggest that we should separate the two terms), tunecast, mediacast, gocast, pushcast, audcast, vidcast, radio shows (that is clever), echocast, eCast (both video eCast and audio eCast). There are more suggestions in the discussion at the TWiT site, but those are the ones I wrote down. Most are self explanatory. The word cast comes from the word broadcast, or more appropriately as it pertains to podcasts, narrowcast. Then there are a few that need explanation. Pushcast because it uses what we used to call “push” technology. You say you want it and when it is available, it gets pushed to your computer. Gocast because it is something you listen to on the go. You don’t have to be connected to the net to listen like netcast or webcast suggest. Echocast because it is something that is recorded and propogates like an echo through servers to get to the listener/viewer. ECast because it is an electronic form of broadcasting. Then there would be audio eCast and video eCast.
The problem to Apple in all of this is that it is assumed by newbies that you have to have an iPod to listen to these. Why, oh why would Apple want to change that perception? I have talked to many people who have heard of podcasts but think they can’t listen to them unless they buy an iPod. I tell them they don’t have to have an iPod and that any mp3 player would work. Why would Apple want people to assume differently. They have their products being pushed each and every time someone uses the word podcast. No one is infringing on their rights because they do not own the word. In fact, Apple is getting free, get this FREE, advertising each time you read the word podcast or hear it. They have nothing to claim cease and desist over. They have never owned the word. I doubt they can own the word. Why not go on letting the world think you have to have an iPod to listen? I would think this drives a few sales.
So, I agree with a name change, though it probably won’t happen. I don’t know if it will affect iPod sales if the name changes. But anything to make Apple look stupid, which they are being, and lose a few sales of iPods, I am all for. Really, changing the name will probably not affect iPod sales enough to hurt Apple. Too bad. And it will give them what they want. Double too bad.
For the record, I like eCast. There needs to be a distinction between an audio and video podcast. When I go to subscribe to podcasts, if I am not careful, I assume they are all audio. I sometimes end up with video ones which I am just not interested in. So having a name for each would be nice. Audio eCast and video eCast seem to fit the bill for me. Though, I doubt we will see a change.