iTune Sync for PalmPre: Once Again, It’s Over

By  |  Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 8:07 am

Pre Disguised as iPhoneNew development in the ongoing saga of the Palm Pre’s Media Sync feature, which has let Pre owners sync directly with iTunes by tricking iTunes into thinking the Pre is an iPod: Palm’s attempt to get the USB Implementers’ Forum to intervene has failed. All Things Digital’s John Paczkowski is reporting that the USB-IF has told Palm that the Pre’s masquerade seems to violate the organization’s policy, which is that a manufacturer can only use the USB IDs it’s been assigned. (Palm has been using one assigned to Apple.)

This is not a startling development: I woulda put ten-to-one odds on it happening all along. The Pre has pretty much been using somebody else’s driver’s license to get into a bar–or, if you prefer, somebody else’s invitation to get into a party.

What’s Palm’s next move? I keep thinking that it’s got no options left but to surrender, but who knows? I do notice that the Palm site still touts Media Sync:

Palm Pre Media Sync

Here’s the footnote:

Palm Pre

No matter how you slice it, this is misleading and out of date: We already know that iTunes 9 breaks Media Sync, so whether or not Palm “guarantees” compatibility is irrelevant. And iTunes 9 isn’t a future version, it’s the current one. I guess “Plus, use the Palm media sync feature to transfer your DRM-free iTunes music, video, and photos to your Pre…as long as you’re using an old cersion of iTunes” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I wanted Palm to win this fight, and I think everyone, including Apple, would win if iTunes had some level of built-in support for non-Apple devices. But it’s surely time for Palm to either eliminate references to media sync as a selling point or introduce a Media Sync 2.0 that uses a bit of middleware to do the syncing, a technique which works just fine. If I’d bought a Pre in part because Palm told me I’d be able to sync with iTunes, I know I’d vote for the latter option…

[UPDATE: PreCentral is reporting that an upcoming WebOS update will re-re-enable Media Sync, and that Palm wants the cat-and-mouse game to continue indefinitely. Doesn’t sound like much fun for anyone involved if it involves Media Sync breaking then working then breaking then working ad infinitum…)


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9 Comments For This Post

  1. Alex Says:

    I agree, we’d all win if iTunes supported non-Apple devices. I use iTunes on my Mac out of convenience- because it’s what I’ve used for a long time and I don’t see any reason to switch away from it. I’ve never owned an iPod, but maybe I would buy one if I knew how nice it was to sync things with iTunes. A big part of the reason I’ve never bought one is that the walled garden idea just turns me off. I want to be able to control my devices as I please.

  2. Daniel Says:

    Why would you want Palm to win this battle? So that we can have a convergence of a software tool to sync all our content? Would not this give Apple unprecedented control over all pmp/smart phone content? It’s bad enough that we fight with MS over the monopoly of PC OS, but to now hand over how we sync our media content over to Apple would be a very bad idea. I love Apple products and their iTunes, but competition is they key to consumers.

    Apple has set the bar on what to expect from our consumer products, compete at that level. Palm is better off setting it’s software that gives better value to it’s users then trying to leverage someone elses tool. Doing what Palm has done has left a poor perception of the company name and people view of their product.

  3. qwerty017 Says:

    I wonder if someone could just come out with a sync cable that replaced one USB ID with another? Heck, if that was possible then you could sync anything.

  4. Harry McCracken Says:

    I’d certainly be happier if iTunes didn’t dominate digital entertainment distribution to the extent it does–which is why I’m glad Amazon seems to be really serious about providing really serious competition, and hope that other major players emerge. But syncing a Pre with iTunes is such a basically useful thing that I was hoping Apple wouldn’t object (and I still hope Palm just does it via its own middleware, which would provide 80% of the benefit of Media Sync without the drama).


  5. Marc Says:

    iTunes is a dog, but probably the only software that is both Mac and PC compatible. It costs a lot to develop for two platforms, so I can see why Palm are looking to avoid it

  6. John Says:

    iTunes is already available to Windows PCs, so it’s certainly not locked down for non-Apple devices. So, what’s the big deal with allowing the Palm Pre to sync? Sure, it’s a small competitor of the iPhone, but those consumers have already spent their money with Palm. Why wouldn’t Apple want iTunes revenue from those consumers? This just doesn’t make any business sense.

  7. Chris Donahue Says:

    I wish Itunes would support non-Apple devices also. I spent 2 years buying on Itunes, them re-ripping to work with a Creative Zen(2003). But, Palm brought this trouble on themselves being underhanded and faking the USB ID.

  8. ecco6t9 Says:

    Palm, give it up you will only piss off your customer base.

    Apple please lighten up, you have become more evil and controlling than Microsoft. Seriously why can’t I buy a 3rd party charger for $4.98 on clearance at Toys R Us and have it work with my iPhone?

  9. Smitty Says:

    It’s not about iTunes “owning the market”, it’s about connecting directly to a third party device. I don’t expect my iPhone to use ActiveSync to connect to Outlook on a PC, and I surely don’t expect Microsoft to support that, either. And I’ve never heard anyone whining that Microsoft aren’t allowing that connection.

    There are other companies that connect to the iTunes _data_ on computers, (which is really what people are wanting). Missing Sync comes to mind ( ), but I’m sure there are others. Apple shouldn’t have to allow third party connections, because if they do, users will then call Apple’s help desk for assistance, which means Apple would, in essence, be donating support resources to any hardware makers too lazy to code their own sync apps. Just because everyone and their brother buys songs through the iTunes Music Store doesn’t mean they have an obligation to transfer it to other platforms. They support Windows and Mac OS X and the iPhones/iPods they sell. If you want Pre support, either write your own, or tell Palm to put on their big boy/girl panties and learn to write some software.

    Judging from the past decade when I used Palm devices exclusively, they probably won’t step up and do it, though. Their syncing software programs were bad enough that I’m not surprised they are trying to hitch a ride. MarkSpace was a niche company before they decided to do what Palm wouldn’t and build good software to sync Palm devices to Macs. Looks like Palm has done it again, and I salute the USB-IF for standing up to their whiney attitude and telling them to play by the rules that everyone else is.

    Meanwhile, there is a golden “third party opportunity” here: write a Pre sync app for Mac and PC, and charge $30-40 for it. Add some functionality other than connecting to iTunes data, and you’ll find there are people out there willing to pay for good software. Palm obviously doesn’t think their hardware needs to connect to the laptop/desktop, or they’d have written an app for it. Prove them wrong.

    Oh, wait – Mark Space already did that! ( ) Pre users, complain to Palm that you shouldn’t have to pay for this, and they should discount your Pre $40 to cover it. Heh – yeah. And note the blue splat – “Works with iTunes and Windows Media Player.”

    So everyone who says iPhones are too expensive, here’s another item that you’ve left off the list: iTunes is free and syncs your data nicely. Other manufacturers make you pay for a third party app.

    And no, I don’t have any connection to Mark Space. I actually get irritated at how much their stuff costs (especially the upgrade!), but when I had a Palm, it was a necessity. They want me to buy software to replace iTunes, but I’m quite happy with iTunes, thankyouverymuch. Your mileage may vary.

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