Yeah, I know. I’m in the podcast-app business! This is big news! The articles all say that Apple may finally “fix” their podcast app! And that might be true: Swell was basically Pandora for podcasts, and Apple’s podcast app has had some issues recently.
But Apple’s podcast app is still by far the most popular podcast player in the world, and it continues to be a pretty low priority for the company. The entire podcasting market is insignificant relative to the other markets that Apple competes in, and they already have clear, long-standing dominance in the podcast market. Many geeks dislike the Apple podcast app, but it’s actually pretty good and solves most people’s needs perfectly well, and Swell won’t solve the few remaining non-geek complaints about it.
Swell also wasn’t doing very well. I suspect the Pandora recommendation-based-shuffle model just doesn’t work for podcasts: they’re too long, varied, and dependent on getting to know personalities over multiple episodes. It’s nothing like hearing a new song every 3 minutes.
I think it’s much more likely that this Swell acqui-hire has nothing to do with podcasts and will never involve the Apple podcast app. It was probably to bring the staff and recommendation algorithms to strategically important areas in which Apple currently isn’t very successful but needs to be: iTunes Radio and Beats Music.