Ad guru opens Apple's iPod to the world

A quick-thinking Sydney developer is cashing in on the iPod and file-sharing phenomena, and has launched what he claims is the iPod's first Web server.

The DOT-POD software, available in server and client versions, lets users share tracks from their iPod with others via the Internet. The software betters a standard Web server by displaying track data in HTML, and offers specialised searches and user controls.

DOT-POD was launched this month by Jeff Ayling, who may be more familiar to Australians as one of the voices of the PlaySchool theme song. An e-commerce guru, Ayling's family marketing business has composed well-worn jingles for Tip-Top, Berocca and many others.

Ayling uses his iPod to store his compositions for review. It was through collaborating on these jingles that Ayling had the idea for DOT-POD.

"We work from home [recording] studios and I'm on the other side of Sydney [to my dad]," he said.

"So the idea came to me when I put together parts of jingles and was sending them to Dad to collaborate."

Sharing and reviewing compositions through other methods like e-mail was less convenient, he realised.

Ayling created DOT-POD so he could select multiple files from his iPod (connected to his computer) and publish them to the Web, or drop them to his desktop.

The Web server URL is then e-mailed to his father, who can stream or download any of his son's tracks at a glance.

"We've been using it for about six months internally," said Ayling.

He believes many iPod owners have, or will, encounter a fundamental problem with the iPod, the one that led to DOT-POD's development.

"You can't take songs off your iPod," he said. "You just can't move them to your Macintosh."

This is due to a hidden folder on the device that prevents any content being uploaded, presumably to protect copyright owners, said Ayling.

DOT-POD can also run from the iPod, which allows the owner to share their songs via any available Macintosh.

Most importantly for Ayling, the software also has access controls that gives access to only his father, thus protecting their compositions.

"Peer-to-peer systems like KaZaA are designed to enable anonymous third parties to share music. This is much more closed off," said Ayling.

"The only way you can access my music is via the URL and password."

While Ayling admits DOT-POD could still be used to infringe copyright, he has chosen not to receive the IP addresses of users following legal advice. This puts him outside the file-sharing process, like the developers of Web servers like Apache. DOT-POD also presents users with several warnings on copyright infringement.

Accordingly, DOT-POD has a different market focus than common forms of music file-sharing software.

"We're after the professional and amateur music market," said Ayling, referring to users who want to control the distribution of their songs. He has priced DOT-POD server at $29. The client software is free.

In its first couple of weeks, DOT-POD has sold nearly 100 copies, with most sales coming from the US, said Ayling.

Ayling has also just launched a related product for another perceived limitation in Apple's music software.

Apple music programs such as GarageBand will generally only export tracks to the Macintosh's iTunes folder, claims Ayling.

He's developed the DOT-TUNES Web server (also $29), which allows users to publish music from this folder to the Web.

DOT-TUNES works in the same way as DOT-POD, allowing songs to be 'broadcast' to remote users via a Web browser.

"We feel it'll eventually be bigger than DOT-POD," said Ayling. "Only about 3 million people have an iPod but a lot more have iTunes [folders]."

Windows versions of both DOT-POD and DOT-TUNES should be available within a month, and later Linux, he said.

He later hopes to expand his Web server software to sharing Macintosh movie and photo files.

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