Time for Palm to give up the iTunes sync nonsense!

Time for Palm to give up the iTunes sync nonsense!

Summary: Palm's latest webOS 1.2.1 for the Pre handset restored a feature which allowed Pre users to sync media with iTunes. While on the face of it this seems like a good idea and one that empowers users, ultimately it's not and it threatens to plunge us into "driver hell." It's time for Palm to give up the iTunes sync nonsense.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, Hardware
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Palm's latest webOS 1.2.1 for the Pre handset restored a feature which allowed Pre users to sync media with iTunes. While on the face of it this seems like a good idea and one that empowers users, ultimately it's not and it threatens to plunge us into "driver hell." It's time for Palm to give up the iTunes sync nonsense.

Apple aren't happy with Palm, and have asked them to disable the feature, and the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) have said that Palm is potentially violating its USB-IF Membership Agreement by making the Pre handset look like an Apple device.

So how does this hack work? Basically Palm is using Apple's USB-IF vendor ID. Plug a Palm Pre to a computer and it identifies itself as follows:

USB Product ID: 0×1209 USB Vendor ID: 0×05ac (Apple, Inc) Manufacturer: Apple Inc.

This revelation worried the USB-IF enough to ask Palm for clarification:

I attach for your information the USB-IF’s adopted and published policy regarding Vendor Identification Numbers (VIDs). Under the Policy, Palm may only use the single Vendor ID issued to Palm for Palm’s usage. Usage of any other company’s Vendor ID is specifically precluded. Palm’s expressed intent to use Apple’s VID appears to violate the attached policy.

Please clarify Palm’s intent and respond to this potential violation within seven days.

It seems by updating webOS to once again work with iTunes, Palm has clarified its position. The next move by the USB-IF could be to revoke Palm's membership, but since the company is using Apple's vendor ID, this wouldn't help much.

Apple's response is to play a cat and mouse game and disable the hack with each release of iTunes. This might annoy Palm enough to give up, or it might not.

This leaves consumers caught in the middle.

So, what's wrong with what Palm is doing? Well, basically it's bringing disarray to drivers. Drivers are complicated enough and prone to enough problems without us needing to get into a situation where one device pretends to be another. What Palm is doing is wrong because they are promising their customers a feature that they can't reliably provide. They're also paving the way for other vendors (big, legitimate vendors, not hokey ones) to do the same. Pretty soon we could be in a situation where you have no idea what a device will show up as when it's plugged into a computer, no idea what driver or software application it needs, and no idea who to turn to when things don't work any more.

Palm, quit it with the USB vendor ID nonsense before you ruing USB for us all!

Topics: Mobility, Apple, Hardware

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36 comments
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  • Apple is leveraging the monopoly

    You got your guys crossed1
    If M$ would do anything similar there would be a revolt.
    We need to be consistent and call out the bad guy: Apple.
    Linux Geek
    • bad guy

      how is apple the bad guy when everyone can tap into the itunes library
      via the provided xml file? there are a lot of software solutions out there
      for synchronisation with itunes. palm just has to write their own or adjust
      an existing one but rather they steal and cheat. your preconceptions
      pushed you too far on this one. as much as you would like to be apple
      the bad guy here they clearly are not.
      bannedfromzdnetagain
      • re: bad guy

        [i]how is apple the bad guy when everyone can tap into the itunes library via the provided xml file?[/i]

        Because there's no technical reason, other than tying their hardware to their monopoly music service. Anti-trust laws aren't just for monopolies, they are there to prevent illegal activities used to gain or further a monopoly as well.

        [i]there are a lot of software solutions out there for synchronisation with itunes. palm just has to write their own or adjust an existing one[/i]

        Or, Apple could stop illegally tying their monopoly music service to their own overpriced hardware. It's an artificial lock.

        Imagine if Windows checked vendor id and prevented install on any Apple hardware. Sure, Apple already has a replacement in OS X, but being able to run Windows is a big selling point for them and I'm sure they'd disagree with MS's use of the data in this way.

        [i]but rather they steal and cheat[/i]

        They didn't steal anything, Apple offers their software for free download. Apple's cheating by using the vendor id to tie the software and hardware together.

        rtk
        • well put (nt)

          nt
          ibarskiy@...
        • Wrong

          Antitrust laws are present to prevent a company with monopoly power to
          use that power to put a related industry out of business. MS used its
          monopoly power to kill a browser so it could enter that market.

          Let me know when Apple uses its iTunes dominance to put Dell out of
          business so it can get into the corporate desktop market.
          frgough
          • Wrong analogy

            Apple uses it's iTunes service to allow only two mobile devices to synch with iTunes: the iPod and the iPhone. The goal isn't to take over a PC manufacturer, it's to force other portable music players out of the market.

            ANY effort made to get anything else to synch with iTunes -- Zune, Zen, etc -- has to use workarounds to establish the connection, and every time it happens Apple releases an update that shuts down that ability.

            So in that regard, yes, Apple is a bad guy in this. That does not make Palm any less wrong for using the wrong vendor ID, but Apple created the problem in the first place.
            MariusSilverwolf
          • Perfectly correct analogy

            RIM desktop for Macintosh can sync with your iTunes library.

            Yes, that sound is your house of cards crashing down around your head.
            frgough
          • Think again

            To sync with iTunes, plug in your device while iTunes is running, let iTunes recognize it, and let your videos, photos, games, apps, playlists, and music sync.

            Oh no, wait, to do that with a Blackberry you have to open Media Sync and let it try to do what iTunes can do already because iTunes is locked out of syncing with anything that isn't made by Apple.

            Either way, Apple doesn't use iTunes to try to drive Dell / HP / Acer out of business. They use iTunes to lock users into only being able to sync with iPod/iPhone to drive devices like the Zen off the market.
            MariusSilverwolf
          • Sorry, but you are wrong.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Competition_law

            "banning abusive behavior by a firm dominating a market, or anti-competitive practices that tend to lead to such a dominant position. Practices controlled in this way may include predatory pricing, tying, price gouging, refusal to deal, and many others."

            Apple used it's dominance in mp3 players to take over the online music sales market, and now uses that dominance to continue it's monopoly on hardware, particularly the smartphone market.

            rtk
          • Wikipedia is not a credible source

            But granting your argument:

            You can buy online music from the Zune marketplace and Amazon.
            Owning an iPod and syncing it to your PC or Mac does not prevent you
            from buying music from Amazon or the Zune marketplace and
            importing it into iTunes.

            Having an iPod and syncing it to your Mac or PC does not prevent any
            other music player from syncing with your iTunes library and
            importing non-DRM tracks onto said player.

            So what was your point again?

            Other than the fact that you hate Apple so much it unhinges your
            ability to think coherently.
            frgough
          • I can buy songs off of iTunes and place them...

            on my G1, so tell me how Apple is locking me in again ???
            mrlinux
        • Where do you get the lock from..

          Everyone I know at work uses iTunes and none of them have an iPod ???
          mrlinux
  • palm is wrong

    palm could simply use the xml file of the itunes library apple
    has been providing for years for interoperability reasons to
    write their own synchronisation software like rim did. that
    would be an ethical approach.

    but maybe palm rather likes to spare itself the development
    costs and simply piggyback on apple's achievements.
    bannedfromzdnetagain
    • Why not, apple did the same thing

      after the halo effect failed. Apple had to make iTunes for Windows, piggybacking on MS's success, in order for the iPod to go anywhere.
      rtk
      • There was no "halo effect"

        ...<i>until</i> Apple released iTunes for Windows.
        use_what_works_4_U
        • nope, that was the "crappy app effect".

          the Halo effect was the thought that people would love their iPods so much they'd change their PC vendor to Apple.

          After iTunes for Windows was released, it changed to "let's make the crappiest app for windows we can, therefore confirming our advertising that Windows is unstable."
          rtk
    • No, for a very simple reason

      That is not what they are trying to achieve. Apple's position is to only allow other sync software certain access while cutting out jukebox functions. It would be different to ask Palm (or anyone else) to write a compatibility layer so that it can be used inside iTunes. Tying iTunes to Apple hardware only is unfairly using monopolistic position. So no dice on that argument. And the fact is, most people want only one piece of software to accomplish all three functions of jukebox, media store, and synching.
      ibarskiy@...
    • you're all dumb...

      all yall are dumb. palm is not trying to "piggyback" off of apple's achievements. they simply want to allow users to sync to the music player and library that would most commonly be used. this is completely understandable. this is the wrong way to go about it, but is still understandable. and btw, this does not say anything about how palm cannot support their own device. again, they want their users to have the OPTION to sync with popular software...easily, not in a roundabout way. this whole blackberry thing is crap, because that would by no means allow the blackberry to sync with with iTunes as easily as an iPod/iPhone. sounds like a lot more work to me.
      that said, again, what palm is doing is not the right way to do it. if they have tried working with apple to provide an apple-approved way of syncing with iTunes, and apple has refused, then palm [i]should[/i] write their own music library software. that would be more responsible.
      now, why would apple want to allow palm's current method to occur? the way i see it, this method could create issues of compatibility with iTunes itself, and to Apple servers. Apple should by no means allow this method of syncing to take place. besides the fact that (the way i see it), palm using this vendor id is an infringement on copyrights and trademarks owned by apple. that said, the responsible thing for apple to do would be to write some universal way for other mp3 devices to sync with iTunes [i]directly[/i] (not through another app like with this blackberry crap).
      keep in mind that i am a somewhat loyal apple customer. i have an iPod classic, and an iPod touch. i love them both. i will admit, however, that apple uses many methods that piss me off in its quest to make more money. most of which other methods mean compatibility issues with other [i]third-party[/i] hardware to use with my iPods.
      so, just to make my point clear: your arguments are stupid and ignorant. however, your endpoints are somewhat valid. palm [i]is[/i] going about this the wrong way, and apple [i]is[/i] only a little less wrong.
      sailor_0703
      • Mr. Smart guy...

        ...in what universe would Apple actually work with Palm on this?! Sounds like [i]you[/i] are living la-la land.
        ibarskiy@...
  • No...Palm is wrong. Other devices synch honestly with iTunes

    This is a Palm issue. Blackberry users can link and
    synch with iTunes and, to date, Apple hasn't lifted a
    finger to block them.
    http://na.blackberry.com/eng/services/media/mediasync
    .jsp

    What Apple objects to is Palm using Apple's USB
    Vendor ID. Basically, Palm synchs by dishonesty. Palm
    is free to take the same, honest approach as BBerry
    but chooses not to either out of lack of resources,
    laziness, or a desire to irritate Apple (and their
    own users). This is not an iTunes tie in issue...if
    others can write the code to link their devices to
    iTunes, why can't Palm??
    UGottaBKidding