Tag Archives | Apple iTunes

Palm’s Quixotic Quest Continues

Palm Jousts

What is Palm up to? With its new WebOS 1.21 update, it’s once again re-enabled the Palm Pre’s ability to sync unprotected music and videos, photos, and now photo albums with iTunes, no extra software required. The move comes after the USB Implements Forum took Apple’s side in the tiff over Palm’s spoofing of iTunes into thinking that the Pre is an iPod. If I recall correctly, Apple has released two iTunes updates that blocked earlier versions of WebOS from syncing, and chances are presumably sky-high that it’ll block this one the next time that it pushes out a new version of iTunes.

I keep declaring this clash of wills between the two smartphone companies to be over, but I’m officially giving up on making any guesses. Whatever will happen will happen, and Palm, at least, isn’t behaving in the nice, predictable way that you expect of large companies. I dunno how the USB-IF will respond to Palm ignoring its stance that the Pre shouldn’t masquerade as an Apple product via USB connection, but it seems to be clear that Palm is willing to burn bridges behind it.

The company is unquestionably bursting at the seams with smart, talented folks; the Pre remains the iPhone’s most formidable competitor by far from the standpoint of user-interface sophistication. But I’m mystified by what it’s up to here. Palm continues to tout iTunes compatibility as a major feature of the phone. But the convenience that the feature offers when it’s working is completely negated by the periods when it’s in limbo, not to mention the general uncertainty of the whole idea. Whether you take Apple’s side or Palm’s or (like me) aren’t completely thrilled with either company’s behavior, it would be silly to think of the WebOS’s Media Sync feature as an argument in favor of buying a Pre.

Mac and iPhone developer Craig Hunter has a cogent post up on all this that beats up Palm pretty good. He wonders the same thing that I’ve been curious about for months: Why doesn’t Palm, like numerous other companies, write a standalone app to do the syncing? It would work well, and there’s no evidence that Apple would try to foil it.  Just how many Pre owners would vote for continuing to play chicken with Apple when there’s a boring but effective alternative route to nearly the same end result?


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1984 All Over Again

As TechCrunch’s Jason Kincaid has reported, DoubleTwist–a media manager application that, among other things, serves as a bridge between iTunes and non-Apple devices–is promoting a new version that debuts on October 6th with an ad that looks…eerily familiar:

Yup, the ad is an animated remake of Apple’s legendary “1984” commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, which introduced the Mac–except this time the scary overlord (who seemed to represent IBM the first time around) bears a striking resemblance to Steve Jobs:

DoubleTwist isn’t saying what the new feature is, but in general, the company’s product is on the side of the angels–it lets people who don’t own Apple devices participate in the iTunes ecology in a way that makes way more sense than Palm’s USB spoofing. DoubleTwist founder Jon “DVD Jon” Lech Johansen is a kind of a genius, and I’m curious what the company has up its sleeve.

That said, I don’t think much of the ad. It doesn’t take much creativity to remake somebody else’s commercial, and this particular remake is less than artful. Then again, I also think that of Apple’s version. It may be universally regarded as one of the greatest TV ads of all time, but the Orwellian overtones were as hyperbolic in 1984 as they are in 2009. And what potential customer wants to watch a commercial that depicts him or her as a compliant zombie? (I’d like to see Apple open up iTunes myself, but I don’t feel like I’m part of an army of lobotomized drones when I use it–nor do I think that Steve Jobs is any more of a terrifying Big Brother than whoever was running IBM in 1984.)

On the other hand, DoubleTwist’s first anti-Apple prank–getting a huge ad seemingly displayed on the outside wall of one of Apple’s flagship stores–is one of the greatest practical jokes ever played by anyone on anyone. May whatever DoubleTwist releases next week live up to the imagination it showed with that bit of guerilla marketing…


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Unwantedware from Apple

Over at ZDNet, Ed Bott writes about discovering that Apple’s “Software Update” utility recommended he install a piece of software that wasn’t an update, for a product (the iPhone) which he doesn’t own:

So why do I have Apple Software Update running in the first place? Because, when I installed Boot Camp, Apple recommended it to me. Indeed, if there’s an important update to the Apple-provided software I actually chose to install – the Boot Camp services and assorted drivers for Apple’s hardware – I would like to know about it. But there is no scenario under which any of these programs could be considered updates to software I installed, and Apple never asked my permission to offer additional software to me.

I’m willing to accept the possibility that sloppiness rather than sneakiness is at fault here–unlike Apple’s earlier overzealous distribution of Safari to iTunes users, I can’t imagine what benefit the company is deriving from getting a geeky iPhone update onto the machines of folks who don’t own iPhones. But the end result sounds like it’s the same: It’s way too easy to end up with Apple software you don’t want.

If Apple intends to use Apple Software Update as a distribution channel for all-new software, it would behoove it to give the app a new name. And even then, it should be darn careful about pre-selecting checkboxes during the install routine.


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

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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Not Quite Sold on iTunes Home Sharing

There were really only two items out of Apple’s “It’s Only Rock & Roll” event earlier this week that managed to capture my attention. First off, where the heck was the iPod Touch camera? Several credible leaks, including compelling imagery, suggested photographic and video functionality was an inevitability. File this one under don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

Next up is Home Sharing, introduced within the refreshed iTunes 9. (See Engadget’s brief video overview above.) This feature allows you to copy purchased iTunes content amongst five authorized devices in your home. It’s surely a simpler method of interaction than sneakernet-ing files around. However, Home Sharing does nothing to overcome the single iTunes Store account limitation. And, in fact, now that Apple’s tracks are DRM-free, Home Sharing is actually more restrictive than simply copying music via a USB stick. Perhaps Home Sharing 1.1 will allow Melissa and I to link our iTunes accounts in a ‘family unit’ sort of way.

Another perceived limitation was the implication that other computers must be powered up to access all home media. However, folks with Macs running Snow Leopard and an Airport Extreme or Time Capsule now have Wake on Demand capabilities. In our household, that should allow Melissa to grab tunes from my laptop (when it’s home). But I still wouldn’t be able to access her iTunes library when her Windows 7 machine is shut down.

Ideally, Apple would bring true iTunes server functionality/support to NAS devices. Even if limited to Time Capsule, that’s the sort of hub & spoke model many of us seek: A central home repository of media files, with family members creating their own individual, custom playlists to stream or mirror on demand – not just to computers, but to iPods/iPhones and AppleTV as well. I’ve gone down this path on my own, with limited success. What we really need to succeed are Apple’s philosophical and technological blessings.

(This post republished from Zatz Not Funny.)


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Palm Pre vs. iTunes: It’s Checkmate, or Should Be

Pre Disguised as iPhoneWhen Steve Jobs was detailing the wonders of iTunes 9 at yesterday’s Apple music event, there was a One More Thing he didn’t mention: The new version of the software once again blocks Palm’s Pre from making like an iPod and syncing music and video directly with iTunes. This is the second time that an iTunes update has foiled the Pre. (Palm responded to the first attempt by using a workaround to regain access to iTunes.) And even if Palm has another kludge up its sleeve, it should bring this saga to an end.

I say that with regret, because I was rooting for Palm: iTunes sync is a nifty feature, and I wish that Apple looked at non-Apple phones syncing with iTunes not as an intrusion, but as an opportunity to sell more music. (If it did, it might actively court other phone manufacturers such as Palm.) But we now know that Apple won’t even take a laissez-faire approach here–it’ll boot the Pre out again and again.

Which means that it’s silly for Palm to promote the Pre’s Media Sync feature as it stands as a reason to buy the phone–even in a best-case scenario, the feature is doomed to an unhappy, tentative future.

The solution seems simple to me: Rather than hacking iTunes to provide direct syncing, Palm should use a bit of PC/OS X middleware to do the job. Lots of products do this without controversy, and Palm can probably license the technology if it needs to. In theory, it’s not as elegant a solution as direct syncing, but it works. And there’s absolutely nothing elegant about the cat-and-mouse game that Media Sync has been playing with Apple to date.


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Apple Event: Big Whoop? Medium-Sized Whoop? Nonwhoop?

smallsteveToday, Steve Jobs and company announced iPhone OS 3.1 (Genius mixes, ringtones); iTunes 9 (iPhone LP content, iPhone app management, fancier syncing, media transfers, new look); cheaper iPod Touches with more capacity; iPod Shuffles in new colors with a lower starting price point and a stainless steel version; a capacity bump for the iPod Classic to 160GB; and an iPod Nano in fancy new colors with with a video camera, FM tuner, voice recorder, and pedometer. It also gave a bunch of iPhone OS game companies a chance to show their new wares. Oh, and Steve Jobs returned to the stage and Norah Jones sang a couple of songs.

Seems to cry out for a T-Poll:


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Fifteen Questions Prompted by Today’s Apple Event

iPod Nano with VideoIt seems to be a mandatory component of the kabuki that is Apple press events and coverage thereof: Nearly every such product rollout is initially dismissed as a disappointment. Despite the welcome return of Steve Jobs, this morning’s one certainly is certainly getting lukewarm reviews, in part because it failed to involve even such relatively mundane rumored gizmos as an iPod Touch with a camera.

I came with my expectations firmly in check, and saw at least one bit of news which will change my life as a user of technology for the better (iTunes’ new tools for managing iPhone apps). So while I may not have been wowed, I also wasn’t nonplussed by the lack of all-new products or other major developments. And as usual, a lot of what was interesting at this event had as much to do with implications as the concrete facts. After the photo of Steve, fourteen questions and attempts at answers…

Steve Jobs

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The Beatles (Not) For Sale. Again!

The Long and Winding RoadIt looks all but certain that the longest-running soap opera in digital music will run at least a little longer. The obligatory annual rumors that Apple was about to announce the availability of the Beatles on the iTunes Store have given way to disappointing sound bites from some pretty knowledgeable sources.

Sir Paul McCartney told NME, not very convincingly, that the appearance tomorrow of the Beatles version of the Rock Band game is a satisfactory alternative to Beatles downloads:

We’ve kind of bypassed that [download problems] because now you can do it in ‘Rock Band’,” he said. “I always liked that, when you’re told you can’t do something and suddenly there’s a little route round the back.

Meanwhile EMI’s global catalog president told the Financial Times that the company wants to make the Fab Four’s music available for download–eventually:

“Conversations between Apple and EMI are ongoing and we look forward to the day when we can make the music available digitally. But it’s not tomorrow,” Ernesto Schmitt, EMI’s global catalog  president, told the FT’s Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson.

(In this case, I’m assuming that “not tomorrow” means both “not September 9th, 2009” and “not in the immediate future.”)

The word of Sir Paul and EMI isn’t enough for you? MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka seems to have found a third source with bad news:

The Beatles estate, Electronic Arts (ERTS) and Viacom’s (VIA) MTV will be releasing a new version of “Rock Band” that features the band’s songs tomorrow. And on the same day, EMI Music Group will release all of the band’s music on remastered compact discs.

But that’s it, a source familiar with the band’s plans tells me. For now.

As Kafka says, the theory that Apple would coordinate its announcement with tomorrow’s other Beatles news always seemed a tad unlikely: Why would it want to promote Rock Band, a game that doesn’t run on Apple hardware?

I’m not going to entirely discount the possibility of a surprise tomorrow until the event (which I’ll be liveblogging) ends and Paul McCartney hasn’t emerged from behind the curtain. I’m not sure why I care, since I long ago ripped the music I wanted from CD. Like most Beatles fans who have gone digital. Perhaps the band and EMI wants us to buy the music one last time on CD in these new remastered versions before it gives us the chance to purchase it yet again in downloadable form.

This whole saga is as old as the iTunes Store: It began with the news that the Beatles were suing Apple over iTunes and the lads’ Apple Corps trademark, segued into musings on whether digital Beatles were in the offing after the spat was settled, and in recent years has involved repeated rumors that a deal had already been struck and was about to be announced. After the jump, a recap of the last six years of developments.

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Join Us for Live Blog Coverage of Apple’s Music Event Next Wednesday

If it’s September in the world of technology, one thing is pretty much a given: Apple will release some new iPods and update iTunes. I’ll be in the audience at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens next Wedneday at 10am as the company does that–I’m assuming–and maybe tells us other stuff of interest, too. (If you think it’ll announce a tablet, tell us now so you claim immense foresight, really good sources, or ESP if it does–most of the world has decided it won’t.)

I’ll blog the event as it happens, as quickly as humanly possible (courtesy of Cover It Live). If there’s a Q&A session, I’ll try to ask a question on behalf of the Technologizer community, so if you’ve got any queries right now relating to Apple and its music-related products, ask ’em in the comments on this post or at the home page for our coverage. And join us on Wednesday right here, won’t you?

Apple September 2009 Music Event Live Coverage


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