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Apple releases iTunes 4.9, iPods to follow

Apple Computer earlier today released iTunes 4.9, a major update to its digital music jukebox software.

In a brief description of the software, Apple said, "With iTunes 4.9, you can now browse and subscribe to podcasts from within the iTunes Music Store. Podcasts are frequently updated radio-style shows downloadable over the Internet. You can also transfer podcasts to iPod, for listening on the go."

A new Podcast Directory in iTunes 4.9 features over 3,000 free audio programs, including favorites such as 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.

The software weighs in at just shy of 10MB and is available from the Mac OS X Software Update mechanism accessible from the Apple menu. As of press time, it was not yet posted to Apple's iTunes website.

As previously reported, it's expected that new iPod models will follow shortly. Original iPods are expected to receive color screens down the line, along with improved battery life of up to 15 hours.

Along with the release of iTunes 4.9, Apple also published a PDF-based instruction set on submitting Podcasts to the iTunes Music Store.

According to the document, "Enhanced Podcasts" may contain chapters with images or URL references that will display in iTunes as the Podcast plays. Apple has released a beta of Chapter Tool to help in creating these Enhanced Podcasts.