Palm, Apple Continue iTunes-Syncing Battle
Late Thursday, Palm released the 1.1 version of its Pre smartphone's WebOS operating system, and in so doing continued its thumb wrestling match with Apple over the Pre's ability to sync with Apple's iTunes software.
Oh, and one more thing: Palm webOS 1.1 re-enables Palm media sync. That's right -- you once again can have seamless access to your music, photos and videos from the current version of iTunes (8.2.1).
(WebOS 1.1 also includes a host of fixes and enhancements to its e-mail client, calendar, Web browser, to-do list and other programs, though none that cover the issues I noted in my review and accompanying blog post.)
So once again, Pre users can plug in their phones to a Mac or Windows computer, have their copy of iTunes recognize the Pre as an iPod, and synchronize multimedia as if it were an iPod. But to defeat the countermeasures Apple added when it shipped iTunes 8.2.1 (blandly described in Apple's minimal release notes as a fix for "an issue with verification of Apple devices"), Palm had to engage in a more thorough form of identity theft.
Earlier versions of WebOS would, essentially, identify the Pre as an iPod when you plugged it into a Mac or PC and selected the "Media Sync" option on the Pre's screen; the Pre would then show up in iTunes as an iPod manufactured by Palm, Inc., with a serial number like "XXXXXX." Now, apparently, it appears as an iPod made by Apple -- because Palm is appropriating Apple's USB vendor-ID code, something companies aren't supposed to do as a good USB citizen.
So now what? Apple will probably try to add some extra screening to the next version of iTunes to watch for this, after which Palm will respond by doing an even better job of impersonating an iPod. I'm not sure how Apple can win this competition -- as long as there are millions of older iPods in the market that the Pre can attempt to mimic, Apple risks causing compatibility problems for its paying customers if it gets too strict in its scrutiny of media players.
Meanwhile, Apple has a bit of a hypocrisy problem: The Mac version of iTunes explicitly supports some old, non-Apple music players, although none have been added to that list in years. Apple also allows third-party programs to synchronize other devices by reading your own iTunes files. Its stance appears to boil down to "you can sync any other player to iTunes as long as it's not too new or too easy to set up."
But that's Apple's right as a developer. I can also see how this company could feel threatened. The Pre doesn't amount to an iPod equivalent -- it doesn't show the one- to five-star ratings you can assign to songs in iTunes, doesn't offer as many ways to sort through a music collection and doesn't offer the elegant click-wheel controls of most iPods--but it can be a good-enough iPod alternative. Do those potentially lost sales outweigh the costs of playing a possibly infinite round of whack-a-mole with Palm's developers? Only Apple's accountants know for sure.
How would you like to see this dispute end? How do you think it will? Please note in the comments if you own or are thinking of buying a Pre.
July 27, 2009; 10:57 AM ET
Save & Share: Previous: Barnes & Noble E-Book Store Yields Prosaic Results
Next: PostPoints tip: Check your batteries for a charge
Posted by: blasher | July 27, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: tundey | July 27, 2009 12:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JonT1 | July 28, 2009 7:22 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: jcbjackson | July 28, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: tokrueger | July 28, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: rsrosenwald | July 28, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: chevychase10 | July 28, 2009 12:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: chevychase10 | July 28, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: HollyTZ | July 28, 2009 1:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | July 28, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: gsdlea | July 28, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 54Stratocaster | July 28, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: alexburns5202 | July 30, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.