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Software // Enterprise Applications

Will Podcasters Feel Microsoft's Love?

Plug-ins and podcasting tools for Vista will likely come from third-party developers, a Microsoft product manager said on Friday during a podcasting trade show.

Microsoft Corp. might rely on third-party software developers to make podcast publishing and listening easier in its next operating system, media player and Internet browser, a company executive said.

Plug-ins and podcasting tools for Vista will likely come from third-party developers, Aaron Coldiron, a Microsoft product manager, said on Friday at the Podcast and Portable Media Expo in Ontario, Calif.

Although Microsoft has no plans to build a podcast aggregator into Vista, "the company is thinking about it," Coldiron confirmed. "It's on Zune's list of features."

The word came after Los Angeles radio host Leo Laporte rallied podcasters Friday during a keynote speech at the conference aimed, in part, at encouraging the Redmond, Wash., company to add a podcast aggregator and tools.

Colligan.com Inc. CEO and podcaster Paul Colligan said someone at Microsoft advocates podcasting because 250 simultaneous feeds called "Zune firmware .9 beta" recently accessed one of his podcasts.

"They have to put it into Media Player on XP," said Colligan, a developer in Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program. "Zune could become the hottest thing for podcasters."

Believing third-party software developers could create the podcast tools for both Zune and Vista, Colligan wants Microsoft to handover the project to the MVPs and let them create the $10,000 worth of code needed to make it work.

Vista and Zune might lack the podcasting tools for easy publishing, but Microsoft's Coldiron touted RSS features in IE7 that will send the audio and video files straight to listeners.

IE7 will have a RSS feature with an easy-click button enabling users to save the feeds to their Internet browser favorites, reading each tag similar to a Web page, Coldiron said. These's also an option to have them sync up directly with Outlook.

"Unfortunately, we don't have a feature set that deals directly with podcasts," Coldiron said. "There's a ton of stuff we would like to add, but we are focused now on shipping a good product."

Podcasters would welcome new tools and distribution methods. Bruce Murray, who produces and hosts a podcast called The ZedCast from Canada, said as a listener it doesn't make much difference whether Microsoft incorporates podcasting tools into Vista and Zune.

"As a podcaster it does," Murray said, because it would make it easier for podcasters to reach the millions of potential listeners who have Windows-based computers and media players.

Haywood, Calif., podcaster Sarah Chavis also believes easy-to-use tools in a Windows environment would entice those who are not tech savvy to embrace podcasting.

"Would it grow without Microsoft?" Chavis said. "Of course, those of us in the space won't let it die. But in Microsoft, the ramp up would be a lot faster."

Chris Gondek produces and hosts two types of podcasts for The Invisible Hand from Portland, Ore.

Gondek, who interviews authors of business books, publishes a show in two formats: MP3 and M4P, which podcasters call an "enhanced version."

The "enhanced version," for Apple iPod listeners, lets podcasters add links, cover art, and indexes for easy click-through. The M4P file produced with an Apple chapter tool will only play on QuickTime, iTunes, or an iPod, Gondek explained.

Listen to feedback from podcasters at the Podcast and Portable Media Expo here.

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