The headline I saw was "Automated podcast box takes on Apple's iTunes U" but I'm not sure that Apple is too afraid or that the schools that have been trying the past few months to implement Apple's iTunes U (that includes us at NJIT - and it has NOT been an easy or quick process - very much a WIP for Apple) will bail out.
The podcasting firm Webcast in a Box plans a name change to BOXpopuli to reflect the company's new emphasis on podcasting. They see market for "automated podcasting" using an "appliance" (such an odd term - I keep seeing refrigerators and blenders). This seems to be more a production tool rather than a distribution system. iTunes U is all about DELIVERY and not about production, though Apple certainly would love you to use their computers & software to produce podcasts. Their site does have a link to meedu.org which seems to be an affiliated service for hosting & distribution.
"Podcast in a Box," requires no training to operate and can operate on a schedule where no administrator interaction is required other than initial configuration or using a USB key (insert the key to capture and remove the key to publish and notify your subscribers).
It's a Linux-based box that records audio in a classroom or other location and uploads the encoded files, with optional "intro" and "outro" segments and ID3 tags added, to a server as a podcast. It has a 200GB hard drive and no manual recording controls.
We have been doing podcasts for about a year without any automation and it can be time-consuming (training, setup, uploading etc.) but I don't know of anyone using a product like this one... anyone out there using an appliance? Please comment below. I'd like to hear about automation experiences.