Apple appears set to turn on over-the-air podcast downloads with the next version of the iPhone software, making it much clearer why it rejected a third-party application that did the same thing.
A German blog called Flo's Weblog has published screenshots purportedly from the next release of Apple's iPhone OS, version 2.2. One of the new features in that software, along with additions like Google Street View, will allow iPhone or iPod Touch users to download podcasts directly to their devices without having to connect the device to their computers and go through iTunes.
Sound familiar? That was the same feature offered by an iPhone application called Podcaster that was rejected from the App Store to much handwringing from the iPhone development community. Apple told the developer that the application duplicated a function found in iTunes, but at that time, iTunes wasn't able to send podcasts directly to a device over the air.
Looks like that is about to change relatively soon. The rejection of Podcaster was one of the primary examples of the grumbling over Apple's policies for iPhone application development. Apple holds veto power over any application destined for the iPhone, and while there are quality control and security issues that help justify that stance, it also allows the company to kill any application that duplicates something it has on a future road map.
And since Apple is unlikely to start sharing its iPhone software road map with the development community--when it hasn't even clarified exactly what the rules are for the App Store--developers who spend weeks or months adding a feature to the iPhone don't always know if they've been wasting their time. Not to mention the possibility that they could face the added insult of watching Apple roll out the same feature a few months later.