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New iTunes tools spur Windows developers

Programmers are busy trading ideas about how best to use Apple's development kit to build add-on features for iTunes music software.

Independent software programmers are using new tools provided by Apple Computer to write add-on applications for the company's iTunes music software, potentially expanding the software's appeal.

Early in the month, the company quietly released a Windows-based software development kit for its media player. The tools provide instructions on how to let other programs talk to iTunes. A similar set of instructions for Macintosh computers had long been available.

The tools do not go so far as to allow other media players to play songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store, but they do allow a variety of applications to extend iTunes use. For instance, using the tools, a developer could write new software that launches and controls iTunes remotely.

"It looks like it's exactly what I was hoping for," said Andrew Carlson, a Chicago-based developer who is using the tools to create a continuously updated list of recently played songs on his Web log. "Until this release, we haven't had a Windows equivalent to what iTunes users could do with AppleScript on a Mac."

While commercial programs have yet to be released taking advantage of the information in the new development kit, a handful of programmers, including Carlson, have begun swapping ideas for small applications, in some cases posting code on their blogs.

iTunes has been the subject of occasionally from independent programmers during the past year, particularly since the release of the iTunes software for Windows in October.

Some of this activity followed the release of an earlier software development kit that focused on visual applications.

Additionally, interest has been piqued by unauthorized projects that have sought to evade some of the content-protection rules of iTunes and of Apple's FairPlay digital rights management software.

The latest version of the iTunes disables some of those unauthorized tools, including "MyTunes," an application that, for a time, allowed users to download MP3s from other iTunes users.

An Apple representative said that the development kit was simply intended to give programmers the same tools they are available for the Macintosh.

"There's nothing new here except that it's for Windows," said spokesman Chris Bell, Apple's director of product marketing for the iTunes line of software.