Remember when I said Apple probably wouldn’t let the Pre sneakily connect to iTunes for media syncing? I was right. And now, after some to-and-froing, the USB’s regulatory body has sided with Apple, effectively agreeing it can block Palm.
The whole situation is pretty amusing, from an outsider’s point of view: Palm has a new smartphone out, hotly tipped as a rival to the runaway-success iPhone, and it included some sneaky code so Apple’s own media management package connects to the Pre as if it were Apple’s own gizmo. Basically the underdog is unashamedly leveraging off the success of the world’s number one MP3-sales portal, which Apple has otherwise closed off to non-Apple products. It’s almost funny.
But Apple and Palm aren’t treating the affair as trivial–Apple thwarted Palm’s efforts by updating iTunes code, which Palm’s responded to with new Pre firmware, and the game has circled around a few more times. While no doubt frustrating for Palm’s users, Apple sees itself as preserving the excellent workings of its closed ecosystem. The core of the issue is that Palm uses USB handshaking tomfoolery to trick iTunes into thinking it’s connected to an iPod when a Pre is hooked up. Palm elevated the battle to a whole new level when it took a complaint that Apple is abusing the principle of open gadget connectivity to the USB Implementers Forum.
Now the USB-IF has responded, and though it’s largely taking a hands-off approach, its pronouncements have emerged in favor of Apple. The USB-IF’s guidelines mean individual ID codes go to every vendor–and abusing this is contrary to acceptable practice. It even called Palm’s bluff by saying if it adjusts its firmware again, in a way that lets it pretend to be an Apple product, it will be in direct violation of USB-iF rules. Palm has seven days to respond to the matter and explain its actions. The USB-IF has basically given Apple a tacit thumbs-up for preserving its closed iTunes-iPod ecosystem.