Bye Bye, Palm Pre Media Sync

By  |  Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 6:04 pm

prefootSometimes threats are angry, blustery, and public. Sometimes they come in the form of…mundane product support notes. Let’s call this one Warning Shot HT3642.

Last month, Palm announced that its Pre phone would sync directly with Apple’s iTunes software on PCs and Macs. It does, rather well, by pretending to be an iPod. It seemed unlikely that Apple would be thrilled with that scenario.

Now Apple has published a support note concerning iTunes that says that it’s aware that some “unsupported third-party media players” (read: the Palm Pre) “claim” to sync with iTunes, but that Apple can’t support or test such compatibility. And “because software changes over time, newer versions of Apple’s iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with non-Apple digital media players.”

It’s conceivable that it’s just sayin’ that you never know what might happen, but virtually everybody is going to assume that the message here is that an iTunes update (possibly the next one) will kill Palm’s Media Sync feature real soon now.

I still feel like we don’t know what’s going on here. If someone sticks his head into a lion’s mouth, he’s either really, really smart or really, really dumb. Offering iTunes syncing through a clever hack is the equivalent of sticking your head into a lion’s mouth. But I don’t think anyone involved with the decision at Palm is dumb.

The thing is, Palm could implement perfectly satisfactory–if slightly less seamless–iTunes syncing by supplying its own utility that talks to an iTunes library and the music and video files on the hard drive. I wonder if it’s already done so, just in case? And if there are already lawyers somewhere drawing up suits claiming that people bought Pres because Palm told them that they’d sync beautifully with iTunes?


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19 Comments For This Post

  1. Alex Says:

    Solution = Don’t update.

    When was the latest notable change to Itunes anyway?

  2. mert Says:

    I was able to sync my blackberry with Itunes, or rather the Blackberry media manager was able to copy my itunes playlists and music onto my blackberry. How is this different.

  3. Krishna Says:

    The media will make Apple the Goliath in this fight. The big giant corporation that is stomping all over the little David aka Palm aka the competition. I also see a lawsuit calling Apple anti-competitive, similar to those in Europe that were filed to make Apple open up.

  4. Tim G. Says:

    Frankly, I’m surprised it took this long. I’m even more surprised why Apple hasn’t sued Palm and the former Apple employees who now work for Palm over IP rights.

  5. unwired Says:

    I wonder how many lawyers are sitting around waiting for the Apple anti-competitive shoe to drop. Apple is skating on very thin ice if they make moves to block. Just sayin’.

  6. Bob Says:

    Why is this a surprise? Why would Apple want to let a competitor steal business by giving them access to something for which they spent a fortune to develop and cultivate? Common sense would dictate that is inevitable.

    And please, don’t respond to me with this “information wants to be free” line of dreck. Apple has a right to be competitive and to make a profit. Why should any business let an competitor into its huddle? If Palm wants to compete, please. But do so by outdoing Apple with a better store. THAT would benefit all of us. Besides, I read today that MySpace is laying off people en masse. That’s what you get when you put eyeballs before making real revenue. Real business isn’t eyeballs. It’s revenue. Earnings. Innovation, not cheap parlor sleight of hand tricks.

    Jonathan Rubinstein is smart – he had to see this coming. If his end game is to drag John Kerry and other Congressional members into something like this, I will only say this: EVERYBODY will lose. That would be a scorched earth policy. And despite Palm’s Prague Spring, the company doesn’t have the cash needed to get in an all-out scorched-earth war with a company like Apple.

    If it sounds like Apple is the heavy here, not really. It’s doing what any company would do in a situation like this: defending its turf. What would you do if a neighbor simply walked in your front door with everyone else on the block and started taking food from your fridge? Same thing here. This story will get a lot of noise over the next week, and some pundits will try to vilify Apple. But this should be no surprise whatsoever. In short: much ado about nothing.

  7. Chip Says:

    I can’t imagine a more reasonable response by any corporation, in which a competitor has hacked into its software: “We’re aware of it. We won’t be supporting it. If it doesn’t work in the future, we can be responsible for it.”
    How is this the least bit anticompetitive?

  8. zato Says:

    Bob Says: “Why is this a surprise?”
    No need to add anything.

    except: Apple wants the Pre to do well. Palm is a respectable, innovative American company. America needs companies like Palm to do well.

  9. Ndna Jnz Says:

    I was so astonished when Palm announced the sync compatibility, I wondered if Palm had made some sort of deal with Apple. Crazy idea, I know, but it seemed like the only non-ludicrous scenario. But now, I think Palm probably has a bunch of ammunition ready to fire in an anti-competitive lawsuit. This sucks because I was an early Palm Pilot adopter and I really would like to see Palm succeed.

  10. DaVo Says:

    See the whole thing with iTunes is not as cut and dried as someone hacking their software. Currently, iTunes represents 25% of media files sold world wide. The fact that the software is locked into use with the owner of itunes software, it creates a situation where there might be some Trust issues. The fact that there is already a call for the FCC to investigate Apple and AT&T for “act expeditiously should you find that exclusivity agreements unfairly restrict consumer choice or adversely impact competition in the commercial wireless marketplace.” The last thing Apple needs to do sue anyone for creating a device that helps to even the market. In a way having another device that can sync to iTunes is just going to increase media file sales. So blocking it is like shooting themselves in the foot. Apple needs to come to terms with the fact they can’t have the profits from the sale of media and the sell of the hardware to play the device on. Itunes is a media store masked as a media player, nothing more.

    Weird that apple was screaming unfair just a few years ago about Windows share of the market and now that the shoe is on the other foot they are trying to not only control the software but the hardware too.

  11. eba Says:

    All I can say is: “Break it” Apple. Palm Pre is wirelessly updated so it can be fixed in minutes… how are you going to update all your old iPods? I would laugh until I stopped.

    First Apple ensured that it had thousands of monochromatic lemmings (just like in its 1984 ad). Now it will try to dictate, and use FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) to control everyone. Bravo, “anti-IBM” … you seem just like them.

  12. MrClock Says:

    The iTunes sync capability in the Palm Pre is provided by a software solution that emulates the USB signaling of an iPod. Were Apple to change the signal, Palm could do the same in a similar update. In other words, no Apple update could stop Palm’s sync capacity (or anyone else’s) with iTunes, just force an update from the other side.

    So I doubt this means Apple will start forcing the issue, they are just drawing a line in the sand to their iTunes users by telling them they only support Apple products in use with Apple software, i.e. it’s a monoculture.

  13. Charlie Says:

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. Do some research into how the Palm Pre hack works. It’s clear that no firmware update on the iPod will be required for Apple to break it.

  14. Neil Says:

    @Bob (and others): DMCA allows for ‘interoperability’ and ‘compatibility’ as a way to circumvent certain digital restrictions.

    Apple’s right on the money, and so is Palm; Apple says they can’t guarantee it will always work, and Palm hasn’t said that it always will. Therefore, no one takes responsibility of any system working with another. Wasn’t this the point of ‘open standards’?

    If this is the future of a digital world — where my purchased, legal media works only with the hardware that’s exclusively paired to my software-retailer of choice — that’s a poor place for us to end up.

  15. Tim G. Says:

    The problem with this is that Apple doesn’t make their money on iTunes media sales. They make barely enough to cover the infrastructure needed to keep the system up and employees paid. This was a sticking point with the media companies who didn’t want Apple making a profit on media that wasn’t created or owned by them. Apple makes their money on iPod & iPhone sales and Palm’s ballsy move potentially cuts into their market share.

    It’s like a movie theater, they don’t make any money on the movie tickets, it’s the concessions where they make their profit. This is why yelling at theaters for their $15 tickets makes no sense, they’re just passing on the cost of renting the print from the distributor over to the consumer. If people are angry, they should be angry at Hollywood for paying celebrities $20+ million dollar contracts.

  16. Frank Says:

    I thought technologizer was better then these panic posts… Apple just said “Oi, euhm, all good and well, but don’t expect support from us” which is perfectly understandable. This does not necessarily mean “We are going to actively block you from doing this!!1111”

  17. Harry McCracken Says:

    @frank: I do say that it’s possible that it’s not going to block the Pre. But you’re right–the headline probably should have had a question mark at the end…


  18. dustmonkey Says:

    Has anybody actually read the developer distribution agreement?

    I am developing a touch screen keyboard for Android and this section worries me.

    “5.1 You grant to Google a nonexclusive, worldwide, and royalty-free license to: copy, perform, display, and use the Products for administrative and demonstration purposes in connection with the operation and marketing of the Market and to use the Products to make improvements to the Android platform.”

    The last sentence, “and to use the products to make improvements to the Android platform,” seems to mean that if Google like my Keyboard idea, they can include it in Android and not have to pay.

    Can someone from Google/Android clear this up for me?

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