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Palm's Pre Syncs With iTunes, but Apple May Squash the Link

Palm's Chairman, speaking at the D7 conference yesterday, confirmed that the Palm Pre has a neat trick: It syncs with iTunes just like an iPod would. While that's handy, Apple isn't likely to tolerate the situation for too long.

iTunes During his presentation, Jon Rubinstein even showed a live demo of the Pre connecting with iTunes, and noted that it would work with both Windows and Mac versions of the software. It can sync all but copyright protected FairPlay tracks with DRM, and when connected to a Mac it can even grab photos from iPhoto. All in all, it sounds like a fabulous boon for would-be Pre buyers, and, since Palm doesn't have a massive iTunes-sized ecosystem of its own to support the Pre, then muscling in on the tech behind the most successful one out there makes sense.

But, unlike sharks who tolerate remora fish hitching a ride on their bodies and refrain from eating them, Apple isn't likely to let Palm get such a free ride. Why would it? There's nothing to gain from the relationship for Apple, and it threatens core elements of Apple's business. And, according to Mac media-syncing expert Jon Johansen, there may be a simple way for Apple to shake off the free-riding Palm fairly quickly.

Johansen's company makes an alternative media-syncing package for Macs and PCs, so he's familiar with the technology—he thinks the Pre must be masquerading in hardware as an iPod. To do so it's most likely co-opted the USB Vendor and Product IDs of an iPod, and it probably also exchanges coded USB handshakes with the software which convinces iTunes that it's actually an iPod rather than a generic device. Johansen thinks that this complex situation has enough latitude that Apple could easily disable Pre syncing with some clever coding at the next iTunes refresh.

Of course, since we're talking about the U.S., there's always the possibility of Apple disabling the Pre through legal means. We'll just have to wait and see.

[AllThingsD, via Macrumors

Related: Palm Pre Challenges iPhone to a Duel On June 6—Who Will Win?
Related: Palm Pre Vs Rumored iPhone 2009: Features Comparison
Related: Palm's Pre Gets More Interesting: WebOS Has Classic PalmOS

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  • Kit Eaton

    @Tyler. I love the cut and thrust of "Mac v PC" style debate :) Or, in this case, Palm v Mac debate. Lovely! Read: And for an interesting technological angle on the issue, read: It's tricky, thorny, and only Apple knows how it's going to respond to this issue. It may revise its API to allow newer device--like the Pre--to do basic syncing, it may not. iTunes is already the number one music digital vendor in the U.S., so Apple probably feels free enough to do whatever the heck it likes with the Pre.

  • Tyler Kneisly

    @Kit. It would be ridiculous for Apple NOT to "tolerate" the Pre syncing music from iTunes. Apple goes out of their way to be pretty accommodating to ALL their biggest competitors. You can install Windows on Macs. A while back when the Creative Zen was the closest competitor to the iPod (and not a very good one) it was allowed to sync with iTunes. Not to mention the handful of third-party iTunes plugins out there that also allow you to sync non-iPod MP3 players with iTunes that have yet to be squashed by Apple. I'm sorry, but your logic is faulty; you're saying that Apple would refuse a potential revenue stream out of spite. To argue that viewpoint IS a reactionary knee-jerk to something; you gave little thought or perspective in your article on alternative positions for why iTunes might actually be ok with another MP3 player syncing with them. It's pitiful fan-boy writing and hardly informative. Check out the latest on this from BGR -

  • Kit Eaton

    @Tyler. So you think Apple's management would happily tolerate the closest threat to its iPhone using Apple softwaree for as if it were an iPhone itself? I doubt it. Connecting up other MP3 players, sure--that's been possible for a while... I just think Apple won't like the fact the Pre is spoofing itself as an iPhone, and I don't believe that that viewpoint is "reactionary" at all.

  • Tyler Kneisly

    The Pre's ability to connect with iTunes is not an infringement of any type. Apple has a tech note on THEIR website that lists a number of non-Apple MP3 players that iTunes will support:

    Connecting other MP3 players to iTunes actually makes perfect sense for Apple. When music purchased through iTunes was locked by DRM, it could only be put onto iPods for mobile listening. Now that iTunes music is DRM free, Apple has opened their platform up for a huge number of non-iPod users that can now purchase all their music through Apple's terrific platform.

    Sure Apple could shut down the Pre's ability to connect and sync music in a future release of iTunes. But why? Why would they cut off that potential revenue stream? Spite? I doubt it.

    This is terrible, reactionary reporting. Do a little digging and report a little fact before going the lazy route and just reporting pure speculation.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Jim. Nice angle into this event, and an unusual one. Do you think Apple will preserve the Pre link for a while then?

  • Jim Stiff

    This is a monster of a news story and puts Apple in drivers seat...currently Apple is locked in exclusively with AT&T fro IPhone, this opens other doors with other service providers without breaking contract with AT&T, also increases Apple's leverage in up coming contract re-compete. Just think of the additional revenue stream from Pre versus just IPhone...

  • Chris Johnston

    I think that this would be great. It would be nice to see iTunes work with something other than an Apple made product.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Reginald. Yup... that would do the trick. It'll be interesting to see how Palm evolves its software ecosystem to support webOS. And how Apple tweaks iTunes: Wireless syncing, anyone?

  • Reginald Davis

    @Kit I have two computers with itunes on both. If I did get a Pre, I would probally keep one updated and the other just for my Pre if it came down to it. But if I only had one computer, I would hold off on updates for awhile just in case. At least till Palm come up with better ways to sync to other programs or better apps to download music.

  • Kit Eaton

    @Reginald. Good point...many people do, in fact, choose not to update iTunes. But it might be hard to you keep your version artificially downgraded for very long, particularly if the new editions had extra functionality. I can see it would be tempting for Pre users, though. Would you do it?

  • Reginald Davis

    I’m sure Apple will try to do another update but really, do you really have to accept the new update? Recent updates from Apple have been to improve fuctionality with the iPhone and iTouch.
    If you dont care about future updates to improve those devices…why update if you got a Palm Pre. Your itunes will always continue working without the updates.