Today, the Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF) has launched Miro 4, an updated version of its desktop media player which now introduces a notable new feature: the ability to sync with Android phones and tablets.

Previously, the software was used for finding, viewing, downloading and sharing digital media discovered through a variety of channels including YouTube and BitTorrent. It was simply a browser-less way to access online media.  But with this new release, Miro has positioned itself as the open source alternative to DoubleTwist, currently Android users' go-to desktop program of choice for duplicating the iTunes experience. And while, at present, Miro lacks some of DoubleTwist's polish, it makes up for it in a rich, and ever-expanding feature set, including, at long last, podcast subscriptions for Mac users.

For Android Users, a New iTunes-Like Alternative

The biggest news today is Miro's new Android device syncing capabilities. The updated software emerged from beta with support for a wide range of Android devices, and it will soon support many others, we're told. When a user wants Miro 4 to add support for their device, they can complete an online form so it will be recognized, the company says. In other words, after today's launch, Miro 4's device list is expected to grow quickly.

In our earlier tests with Miro's software, we did experience a few bugs and crashes, but the code base has been updated since then. But, as Android users know by now: your mileage may vary. Overall, though, we were pleased with the Miro experience, and more importantly, with its potential.

Features: Syncing, Converting, Streaming, Sharing, App Stores & More

Like its top competitor DoubleTwist, Miro 4 also allows you to easily sync your existing media libraries from sources like iTunes with your Android device. This includes both music and video content, as well as podcasts.

Miro also helpfully converts your files to the appropriate format for your device, even if you're unaware what that format may be. This will be useful to Android users who download videos from the Internet, and, in particular, illegal torrents, if we're being honest. However, out-of-the-box, Miro 4 only supports legal torrent sites (yes, there is such a thing!) including the ever-popular YouTorrent, for example.

End users can add their own sources, though - and we can guess what that list will include for many of you.

Android users will also appreciate the built-in access to mobile app stores that come preinstalled to Miro's sidebar. Here, you can browse both the official Android Market and Amazon's appstore as well as Amazon's MP3 store,, in addition to several localized versions. You can also add your own app stores to this list, the company says.

Miro's playlist feature is bare bones for now - it doesn't import your iTunes playlists and it doesn't support "smart" playlists like iTunes does today. But these sorts of things should arrive in later releases, PCF says. For now, the group's major goal was to introduce full metadata support for MP3s, which is necessary in order to build something like "smart" playlists later on. (In MP3 files, metadata tells software details about the file - like the song title, artist name, album, etc.)

Finally, as a desktop media player, Miro can stream and share content from any of its sources to the desktop or even to any other Miro-equipped computer on the same Wi-Fi network. It also offers an iPad app which extends this feature to the tablet.

Podcast Subscriptions on Mac (Take that, DoubleTwist!)

For podcast junkies, one of the more exciting features in Miro 4 is the support - at long last - for podcast subscriptions on Mac. Although DoubleTwist offers an attractive and polished desktop software application for syncing to Android phones, the company has made the odd choice to focus on adding whizz-bang new features like wireless sync before completing the software's foundation.

For Mac users, podcast subscriptions have been promised for months on end (yes, a personal pet peeve), even leading to some customer refunds, but support has still not been added. Miro 4 provides an alternative for those who want a desktop (as opposed to an app-based) solution for podcasts. In Miro, you can browse, stream and subscribe to any podcast it offers, and you can add podcasts via URL, too.

Where to Download

Because Miro is open source software, it is, and it will remain, free. The company will support future development by selling ads which only appear in its guide, the podcast search portal located at the top of its sidebar.

In future releases, the company plans to add more polish and features, it says. It may also introduce its own companion app for Android devices and may eventually add support for syncing to non-Android phones at some point, too.

In the meantime, interested Android users can download the new Miro 4 from here.