Who woulda thunk it? That in an age when one can instantly access music and video, the biggest digital trend would be transferring prerecorded radio-like programs to a digital player for listening on the fly? On the surface, podcasting almost seems like a step backwards.

But there’s no denying that podcasting is big. So big that radio stations are scrambling to bring podcasting programs to the airwaves. Infinity Broadcasting made headlines last spring when it flipped a ratings-challenged San Francisco AM station to podcasting in May. More recently, Clear Channel Radio announced that within the two weeks of the debut of its podcasting feature, Z100’s “Phone Tap,” over 20,5000 pieces of content had been delivered via the new medium. Furthermore, the radio chain announced that it will provide nearly 20 new feeds from 12 more stations as well as launch ten more feeds by the time you read this. When the big boys get behind a concept such as podcasting, you know something is up.

And, while the current podcasting model is strictly audio, you can bet there’s a video version waiting in the wings, kind of like a real-life Wayne’s World. In retrospect, Garth and Wayne were more than just two slackers spending way too much time in the basement with their home-brew TV show. They were ahead of their time.

However, one of the more unusual aspects of podcasts is the name itself, a mash-up of broadcast and iPod. It’s unusual because most, if not all podcast files are MP3 files, which means that podcasts may be played on almost every digital player on the market, including Apple’s iPod. But the irony that rings out every time somebody says “podcast” is that Apple has yet to incorporate podcasting elements into its iTunes music software.

Oh, sure, Apple’s Steve Jobs made headlines over a month ago when he said that iTunes would support podcasts. But until Jobs’ promise becomes fact, iPod users continue to rely on third-party software for managing podcasts on their iPods. Third party software like BadApple, made by a company calling itself BadFruit.

What does BadApple’s BadFruit software do? Essentially, it’s a plug-in for Apple’s iTunes software that allows you to manage your podcast files as easily as managing your music library. What makes it news is that BadApple has beaten Apple at making iTunes podcast-friendly.

Managing podcasts is slightly different than managing your digital music library, mainly because podcasts change. There’s always a new episode, show or updated program to listen to, and keeping up with your podcasts is probably the most important aspect of managing podcasts. That and finding podcasts.

That’s where BadApple really goes to work. It helps you find and download podcasts as well as manage all the podcast files on your hard drive. And it does all this within the iTunes environment as if the software was designed by the programmers at Apple themselves.

The thing about BadFruit is that nobody knows anything about the company. BadFruit’s Web site doesn’t list anything like a snail-mail address or executive officers. However, it does make it a point to tell you what the company is not.

“BadApple is NOT from the Beatles,” reads a notice on the company’s Web site. “It’s also not from Apple Computer Inc. It’s definitely not endorsed or approved by Apple. In fact, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want you to use this.”

So, who, or what, is BadFruit? While the company is currently basking in its undercover fame, CNET says that there are several “clues” on the company’s Web site, such as a sophisticated privacy policy and terms of use, indicating that BadFruit might not be all that it appears to be, and that the proletarian look of its Web site may be nothing more than a beard for which to hide its clean-shaven corporate face behind.

A WHOIS search for BadFruit.com ends at Domains By Proxy, a Web registration company which specializes in anonymously-maintained Web site domains. Wanna build a Web site for dissing your boss without having all that venom traced back to you? Domains By Proxy might very well be what you’re looking for.

So here we have an anonymous company distributing software that enables people to manage files representing a new genre of media named after Apple’s iPod music player although Apple itself has yet to introduce any such software itself. Confused? We don’t blame you. But wait, there’s more.

For it appears that BadFruit’s BadApple software isn’t compatible with Apple computers. Go figure.