Palm to Apple: Block This!

By  |  Thursday, July 23, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Pre Disguised as iPhone

Last week, Apple blocked the technique that Palm was using to let the Pre sync seamlessly with Apple’s iTunes. I assumed that it was game over. Wrong! Palm released WebOS 1.1 today, and among its new features is the ability to sync with iTunes 8.2.1, the version of Apple’s media software that foiled the earlier version of Palm’s Media Sync feature.

There’s an interesting technical backstory here, though we don’t yet know what it is. Did Apple do an insufficient job of making it tough for the Pre to sync? Did Palm figure out an entirely different method for accomplishing a similar end result? If Apple blocks Palm’s new approach, will Palm strike back with workaround #3? Is it possible for Apple to make utterly sure that non-Apple devices can’t sync with its software? I’m assuming/hoping that folks who know more about this stuff than I do (such as Jon Lech Johansen) will soon tell us what’s going on.

I said in my earlier post that I had trouble summoning righteous indignation over Apple’s anti-Pre tactics. I still do. But if this is going to turn into a cat-and-mouse game, I’m rooting for the rodent–which is plucky Palm. Although I still think that the best all-around solution would be for Apple to open up iTunes so that owners of the Pre–and other devices–could easily give Apple money for music, too. Who wouldn’t be better off if such a scenario came to pass?


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12 Comments For This Post

  1. Steven Fisher Says:

    My perspective on this, from when Apple blocked Palm.

    Remains true: Every time Pre users are locked out of sync, Pre users suffer. They’re Palm’s paying customers. Palm needs a real, ethical solution to this.

  2. Harry McCracken Says:

    Good points. (If I were to buy a Pre, I’d do so under the assumption that Media Sync will probably go away. But if you read Pre advertising and don’t read blogs, you might not know what’s going on.

    To expand on my feelings here: I think that there’s no way that Palm can beat Apple at this game if Apple doesn’t want to be beat. So my preference would be that Apple back down and let the Pre sync. We’ll see…


  3. Steven Fisher Says:

    It sounds like a good idea, but taking hands off the iTunes syncing to the Pre means that sooner or later Apple’s going to have to support it, and that costs money.

    The smart way for Palm to do this would have been to include an installer for Palm’s own software on the Pre itself, so when it’s plugged in it’s obvious what the user needs to do. That’s what my Flip did, I believe.

  4. sfmitch Says:

    On this particular issue – Palm is wrong and deserves to lose. They should offer a real solution for their customers, not a BS hack. Palm’s behavior is actually pretty embarrassing.

    It’s not a question of little guy vs big guy but a question of delivering real solutions (Palm creates their own sync solution or licenses an existing one) vs crackpot piggyback schemes onto a competitor’s solution..

    It is a bit ironic considering Palm’s syncing chops has traditionally been a competitive advantage.

  5. gw Says:

    It seems like money in the bank for Apple. “Use my stuff, but pay me”.

  6. Evan Says:

    If there are any business lawyers out there, I’d be interested to hear your take on this. Does Apples’ hold on the digital music download business qualify as a monopoly, such that they can’t use a strength in one area (digital music) to hurt competitors in other area (mobile phones), sort of like what Microsoft got slapped for?

  7. Disputatore Says:

    This guerilla war is stupid. What? Isn’t Pre-owner’s money good enough for Apple? Read my lips, Apple o-p-e-n m-a-r-k-e-t-s are a good thing.

  8. Paul Judd Says:

    RE: Evan:

    Apple doesn’t have a hold on the music industry. They may be the number one seller of tunes, but the whole affair regarding DRM free has shown us that the control is mostly in the hands of the recording companies who source their content out to many competitors.

    The relevant market is music stores in general, not just downloaded content because your music library can be made up of CD’s.

    Simple dominance due to popularity does not a monopoly, much less an anti-competitive one. If I want to put music on my iPod or any other players, I do not have to give Apple one red cent such is the competition. Apple is popular and convenient no doubt, but that is 100% legal.

    We should also point out that Apple makes very little money on iTunes. Its a foil so that they can sell iPods much as selling a cheap game console is intended to get you to buy expensive games

  9. Paul Judd Says:

    You can purchase music content all you want for your pre. Apple does not lock them into iTunes at all. Tons of software out there uses Apple’s XML file to read the library and sync with players and Apple has never had a problem

  10. jltnol Says:

    Who benefits? Well what happens is that this is the Apple Clone debacle from the ’90’s. Why by more expensive Apple products when cheap, Wallmart products do the same thing with iTunes.

    I don’t think this is the route Apple should go.

  11. Andrew Says:

    I can’t believe people actually WANT to use that horrid pos that is itunes for anything.

  12. Elliot Says:

    A little off topic: I would love to see a iTunes competitor appear and inject some competition into this game. iTunes is good – but far from perfect. I haven’t seen a good media library program that challenges iTunes yet (anyone know of one?). I want to see a competitor come along (amazon?) and create a program that integrates their music/movies/tvshow libraries, but also opened up the software to accept ALL media formats (not just Apple approved formats like mpeg4).

    More on topic: I don’t think Apple will ever let any other devices sync with iTunes. Sure it would drive growth in iTunes user base, which would give Apple even more leverage on the media companies, but Apple makes little to no money on iTunes. They run it at near break even. The only reason they have it is to drive growth in their iPod/iPhones – which is where they make their money. If they allowed BlackBerry’s and Pre’s to sync with iTunes, that takes away a lot (but certainly not all) of the incentive to buy Apple products. Now if they did open it up to other devices, Apple would want to start making money on the iTunes store…which means raising the prices and renegotiating all those contracts with the media companies.

    Just my $0.02