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back to article Palm Pre re-re-introduces iTunes synchronization

You've got to hand it to Palm, it's made itself one tenacious mole for Apple to whack. The company's long-running fight to keep the Palm Pre compatible with iTunes entered yet another round of assured futility over the weekend. This Saturday, Palm released version 1.2.1 of WebOS, which "resolves an issue preventing media sync …

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Actually...

I think Pre will win this one... until Apple get the lawyers involved. At the end of the day, it's more acceptable for Pre to release new firmware every couple of weeks to restore one feature than it is for iTunes to force updates on the users every couple of weeks to block it.

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FAIL

Irrelevant

I've been a palmist for 10 years. I have a large investment in Palm apps. If this is no longer relevant, I might as well get an android or an iFone.

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Do you hear that?

That is the sound of inevitability.

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WTF?

Ever heard of Applescript chaps...

Seriously, are Palm too cheap and tacky to bother to write their own app to connect to iTunes on the machine itself? Sounds like it would be simpler than this nonsense, and, sadly, it sounds like they've decided that they want to just get to use Apple's R&D for free.

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Law
Badgers

Can somebody tell me...

... does Palm wipe out all your contacts/media/apps/messages/settings with every firmware, like the HTC Hero does.... or does it provide an iphone-itunes-style backup/restore entire phone thing?

I know the hero provides limited windows software that lets you sync your contacts with some outlook contacts (or you could just use google contacts!) - but there's no way of one-click saving all your installed applications, messages, homescreens/settings.... the update wipes all that with no way to fully backup/restore them... luckily my wife's happy with the new Hero speed so I doubt she'll flash the phone ever again now anyway... but out of interest what method does the Pre follow?

I can see this whole cat and mouse game being more than a little annoying if I had a Pre and it was more like the Hero system than the iPhone one-click restore... but then again, I would just not bother updating itunes for 18 months until the next phone upgrade (actual phone with contract, not software on phone!).

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Alert

And how did Palm do this?

Again/still by forging the vendor ID of the USB protocol, pretending to be an Apple device while it is not.

This is against the license of the USB Implementer's Forum. No matter how noble (or not) the cause is, the method Palm uses is highly debatable, and they potentially risk losing the license to use the term "USB" on any of their products.

I think they're shooting themselves in the foot here. I don't see how they can win this round. This isn't even between Palm and Apple, but between Palm and the USB-IF.

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Stop

Of course

Palm are pissing of the non-Pre iTunes user too, because we keep getting update notifications every time Apple release a new build to block them.

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FAIL

Hard to pick a side with this one

It doesn't cost apple anything to let palm have the ability to sync, but then again it doesn't help either since the only people who are going to be using itunes + pre will already be using itunes, they're unlikely to download it just for that.

Nokia have a nice bit of software that can read a folder full of iTunes playlists and download the tracks to the phone, so you make sure you've got a playlist named "nokia 5800" or whatever you choose on your iTunes list and away it goes. Why can't Palm go down that route? That way they don't have to pretend anything and apple have no way to cut them off at the knees.

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Yawn

This is just one big publicity stunt and its getting boring.

If palm cared about their users and making a good product they wouldn't insist on making them have sporadic ability to sync with their device, and would instead write their own or buy out one of the third party companies that make syncing utilities. Maybe they should take a page from Apple's book; iTunes was once SoundJam.

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software houses need to get a grip!

Both company's are in the wrong. Its about time the desktop/mobile software industry started to implement some standards so iTunes can sync with a "generic-device". What is the point of locking out all the palm users from buying stuff on iTunes. If you want them to use an iPhone then build a better iPhone. Then Palm and everyone else can quit wasting money on reinventing SYNC R&D and just call the standard sync process. If the likes of Cisco were like this we would have no internet.

STANDARDS PLEASE!

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Paris Hilton

webOS 1.2.1

It should be pointed out that palm has only released webOS 1.2.1, the update that fixes both iTunes sync issues *and* Exchange sync issues, to Sprint customers in the USA. Other customers only have access to v1.2.0.

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Grenade

Superior 290x250 video resolution

Time to bring back the old Betamax analogies. Apple keeps talking about openness but they only implement it one way. I know they're trying to fight competition but the same tactics scare me away from relying too much on Apple hardware and software. It took me only a few DRM purchases and one buggy iTunes update to realize that getting locked into the iTunes/iPod/iTV setup would be a disaster.

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On the other hand...

The inevitable update to iTunes will hopefully fix a few of the many many new bugs introduced in iTunes 9. Playlist play order, what's that?

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Megaphone

I'm not sure what to think ...

I think it would be good for this one to go to court. What rights do consumers have any right to 3rd party interoperability?

If HP wanted to update all HP computers so that they could only connect to HP printers ... would that be illegal?

What if Microsoft wanted to only allow software it digitally signed to run on Windows 7?

If its illegal for Microsoft to do that why is it legal for apple to do that with the iPhone OS?

Apple can say all they want about needing to protect the integrity of the cell phone network, but I have an iPod touch.

Is it legal or illegal for me to jailbreak my ipod touch?

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@ZenCoder

"If HP wanted to update all HP computers so that they could only connect to HP printers ... would that be illegal?" ETC

Your analogies are wrong. A correct analogy should be:

"If HP wanted to update all HP printer software so that they could only be used on HP printers ... would that be illegal?"

That is better. (And now your argument shows its true flaws.)

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Just as we thought they'd given up

I really can't understand what Palm is trying to do. Why don't they just write a simple sync utility for iTunes content. It's all there in a simple file structure and has an open source XML document describing it all. Users could still use iTunes to buy or rip music and the small sync utility would handle the rest.

Contrary to what some posters here think, Apple computers play very well with 3rd part hardware, when it suits Apple. I just bought a new Canon digital camera and just like all the other digital cameras I've bought in the last 7/8 years, I just plug it in and it opens iPhoto and imports the photos. No need to install drivers or software, it's all already there.

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Jobs Horns

It's the wrong fight anyway.

There *is* a way of upsetting the Applecart (hah!), but this isn't it.

Someone (and I'm thinking Sony here) needs to produce a media player with an iPod connector on it. Apple would sue, but with iPod docks now built in to just about everything, including cars FFS, I have a sneaking suspicion that they'd be on shaky ground.

Having a patented dock connector, OK. Leveraging your market position so that said dock connector becomes the de facto standard for third-party applications and then using this to freeze your competitors out of vast swathes of the market, not so good.

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Its only a constant unwinable battle..

If pre users keep on upgrading itunes.

If the current version does what they want, including syncing with their pre, then why should they upgrade to 9.whatever when they know it will only add one or two pointless new features but will block the use of their pre?

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Anonymous Coward

Oh sweet Lord…

Not this again. Take a cue from Blackberry and write you own fucking software Palm! If they are spoofing USB ID's again then sue them for identity theft or fraud (same thing if you ask me). I suppose we are going to have to suffer the wit of the geniuses out there demanding open standards along with the thump of a metaphorical fist on the table. It already exists for syncing with the iTunes library. It's called "Extensible Markup Language" or XML. The file "iTunes Music Library.xml" resides in the ~/Music/iTunes folder on a Mac and in the %USERPROFILE%\My Music\iTunes folder on a Windows PC. This is exactly how RIM and Nokia achieve iTunes syncing using their own respective syncing conduits on a Mac. If Palm haven't got the the time/ability to do this, then they should offer to licence or buy the Mark Space program that does this for them. I'd urge Apple to take Palm to the FCC, but why sink to the same level as them?

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@Ben Boyle

ACTUALLY of course...Apple could just let them sync.

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Why use iTunes?

I mean, really. Why use it? There are alternatives available. If Apple don't want to play fair with a standard (is there one for this kind of service? MTP or summat?) then feck 'em, go find something better.

Anyway, as other have said, how hard would it be for Palm to write a sync-app then read the iTunes database? When I used to have a Pilot they provided their own sync stuff, why not now?

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@Law

The last Hero update did require a wipe of the phone data true - but smaller updates would not, depending on what was being updated. Hopefully if there is another update from HTC it won't require a wipe this time.

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WTF?

Palm's "Death Wish"

I'm having trouble seeing what Palm's motive is. Not only are they sticking two fingers up at Apple they are now doing so to the USB IF who clearly ruled Palm were in the wrong. If Apple file complaint with the USB IF they are sure to find in favour of Apple and against Palm.

Maybe it is for the publicity, but Palm risk gaining notoriety as a bunch of tossers who cannot see they have no leg to stand on and do not know when to back down. Maybe they are hoping to get a world-changing case going which ultimately forces interoperability for all software with any device ? Good luck with that; it could destroy Palm in the process.

Palm can play cat and mouse with Apple, but Apple will almost certainly ultimately win. Maybe Apple will get more cunning and more vindictive, slowing down uploads, corrupting copied MP3's and 'failing' randomly when they detect it's a Palm not an iSomething. Playing the,"I couldn't stop the burglars cloning a key and breaking in, so I let them break in, then hit them about the head with a shovel", will have a great deal of sympathy from the public at large.

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Firmware update

An easy solution to this is for Apple to issue a firmware update for all iPods / iPhones.

If a device that has identified itself wrongly as an iPod gets "accidentally" bricked by that update, then the owners should complain to the manufacturer who wrongly used the incorrect USB device code.

Apple would have been innocent as they would have been issuing an update to their users on their device code.

Or, issue a firmware update that rebrands the Pre as an Apple product (e.g. iPhone - cheap knock-off edition).

Again, if the device was using its own USB device code, it would be safe from this.

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P 8
FAIL

@ZenCoder

Go read your terms and conditions you will find it is illegal to jailbreak your ipod touch :)

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Short sighted

I'm not a fanboi or a palmist...

However, seems to me that Apple is sort of shooting itself a bit in the foot here. Why not let the Pre use iTunes, and this could result in Pre users using the iTunes store and making more money for Apple. Also, to those who say Palm should write their own, what about the people who have iTunes installed on their PC and don't want to have to install another MP3 library package on their PC?

Maybe Apple and Palm should talk to each other and just come to some sort of agreement here...

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@Law

Much like the iPhone, there's an app for that! Look up MyBackup Pro, works fine. You can even schedule backups to the SD card so you can revert if you need to.

Not related, just a happy user.

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Anonymous Coward

@ All the idiots who are wrong

AC 22:26:

"Seriously, are Palm too cheap and tacky to bother to write their own app to connect to iTunes on the machine itself? Sounds like it would be simpler than this nonsense, and, sadly, it sounds like they've decided that they want to just get to use Apple's R&D for free"

No, because Apple could implement blocking to protect their monopoly on the software side of things just as easily. It makes more sense to just use Apple's software and only fight the battle on the hardware front. The software battle would be a much harder one to fight. FWIW Apple put no R&D into iTunes either, they bought the technology off a 3rd party. Not that there's anything complex about iTunes anyway, producing a superior competitor would be easy, the problem isn't the software, it's taking advantage of Apple's monopoly and giving users access to their DRM'd tunes that's the issue.

RefriedNoodle:

"This is against the license of the USB Implementer's Forum. No matter how noble (or not) the cause is, the method Palm uses is highly debatable, and they potentially risk losing the license to use the term "USB" on any of their products."

Wrong. Stop talking shit about things you clearly know nothing about. There is no "license" to implement USB, the only license is to use the USB logo. You can however get compliance certification which is presumably what Palm was trying to get removed from Apple, but as Apple sits on the USB-IF board then it's no wonder what the decision that was reached was. Palm are well within their legal rights to do what they're doing, there is absolutely no legal recourse against them whatsoever else they'd have done it by now. At best Apple will be digging out some shitty little technicality to try and sue based on but judging by the time it's taken them to respond they're struggling to find this.

Most people don't know if their dodgy USB memory sticks from Taiwan are compliant or not so it's no big deal for Palm if they end up just shunning official USB certification and the logo anyway.

More importantly, good on them if they do. USB was meant to be an open spec that is interchangable between devices, not locked down for specific devices as Apple is doing. Whatever the USB-IF says now under duress from Apple does not alter the fact that this is not what the original plans and specifications for USB state.

The USB-IF shot themselves in the foot with the decision they proxied for Apple because now they're at odds with the spec itself, meaning they're largely irrelevant and many companies will be asking what the point in using the logo or certification is if it means handing control of your business to a select few members of the USB-IF, rather than the USB-IF being an impartial non-profit overseer.

But here's the thing, the USB-IF's decision is interesting in that it effectively also gives as an example, a greenlight to Microsoft to allow their operating system to refuse anything with Apple's vendor ID to connect to it whilst allowing the Zune to continue connecting as normal.

If you believe Palm is in the wrong and Apple is in the right, and that the USB-IF did the right thing, then you simply do not understand the repercussions of the USB-IF's decision, nor do you understand why USB was originally developed and with what goals. The USB-IF and Apple are running at odds to USB and why it was created, their position itself is also legally dubious in that it opens the door for clearly illegal monopolistic practices of which Apple may already be guilty.

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Pint

One has to admit it

they are a splendid bunch of bastards, these no good MoFos.

Get a grip!

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Don't upgrade iTunes

The last time I allowed iTunes to upgrade itself, it promptly removed a couple of apps from my iPod because it decided they were firmware 3.0.0 apps and my iPod was still at firmware 2.1 (even though they still worked just fine). I had to pay the £5 tax to upgrade the iPod firmware - not free thanks to a very convenient "legal ruling" - before iTunes would let me use my apps again. I won't be allowing iTunes to upgrade itself any more. Seems it would be sensible for Palm owners also not to upgrade their iTunes, if they've managed to get themselves into these manufacturer shenanigans.

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MnM
Welcome

@P 8

'Go read your terms and conditions you will find it is illegal to jailbreak your ipod touch :)'

Believe it or not, Apple do not make the law itself.

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WTF?

AC: 22:26

To: "@ All the idiots who are wrong"

It appears YOU'RE the idiot who is wrong.

> Apple could implement blocking to protect their monopoly on the software side of things just as easily. It makes more sense to just use Apple's software and only fight the battle on the hardware front.

Apple provides an easy to read XML format that other syncing tools use (Nokia, Blackberry, Sony Ericsson). This is an open and documented way to interface to iTunes and its playlists. Palm should just do this. Apple doesn't block anyone from using this method.

> FWIW Apple put no R&D into iTunes either, they bought the technology off a 3rd party.

Yeah, about 9 years ago. You think Apple has done no R&D for iTunes since then? Idiot!

> the problem isn't the software, it's taking advantage of Apple's monopoly and giving users access to their DRM'd tunes that's the issue.

Idiot! iTunes tracks aren't DRM'ed anymore and even by using iTunes, older DRM'd tracks can't be played on a Pre anyway. Palm using iTunes doesn't get around this.

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Flame

@mongs - Festival of Flamage - misconceptions 101

@George Schultz

"Your analogies are wrong. A correct analogy should be:

"If HP wanted to update all HP printer software so that they could only be used on HP printers ... would that be illegal?"

That is better. (And now your argument shows its true flaws.)"

No, a better analogy would be "If HP made a popular, but shit, desktop music player and nobbled it so that it could only play nice with HP brand portable music players"

That is better, and now your poor reading comprehension shows it's true flaws.

In easy words : iTunes doesn't run on iPods/iPhones, therefore you are an arse.

@P 8

"Go read your terms and conditions you will find it is illegal to jailbreak your ipod touch :)"

Illegal ? Really ? Is that 'illegal' in the sense that you can point to some legislation, or is it 'illegal' in the sense that 'illegal' downloading is illegal (e.g. it isn't, but it may be actionable under civil law), or is it, even more tenuously, 'illegal' in the sense that it breaches some arbitrary terms that the purchaser is assumed to have agreed to but never even had a chance to read before purchase and hasn't signed off on, making it dubious that it's even actionable at all in most sensible jurisdictions ?

If you answer yes to the first question and quote the DMCA, everyone outside the US will laugh at you.

@ AC Tuesday 6th October 2009 09:31 GMT

"No, because Apple could implement blocking to protect their monopoly on the software side of things just as easily."

No, they can't. Not without breaking every single third party iTunes application in the world, of which there are many. There is a published SDK for iTunes utilising AppleScript on OS X and COM interfaces on Windows. The existence of this SDK, which enables all sorts of neat things like generic bluetooth remote control, media streaming, custom playlisting and suchlike makes it quite easy to knock up a sync app for any old generic device you have lying around.

Maybe you should, y'know, "Stop talking shit about things you clearly know nothing about."

Which goes for this, to, BTW :

"If you believe Palm is in the wrong and Apple is in the right, and that the USB-IF did the right thing, then you simply do not understand the repercussions of the USB-IF's decision"

The decision that Vendor IDs a) should be unique and b) are the property of the vendors who've been assigned them ? Which part of this have _you_ failed to grok ?

"The USB-IF and Apple are running at odds to USB and why it was created"

No, actually, Palm are doing that. USB Vendor IDs and device identifiers are fundamental to the correct operation of device drivers, fucking around with them will likely break something in the end, and doing so has no place in production code.

Again, maybe you should, y'know, "Stop talking shit about things you clearly know nothing about."

"their position itself is also legally dubious in that it opens the door for clearly illegal monopolistic practices of which Apple may already be guilty."

If it's clearly illegal then you ought to be able to quote a section of some legislation that is, prima facie, being breached. You can't, can you ?

Thought not.

Maybe you should, y'know, "Stop talking shit about things you clearly know nothing about."

Just sayin.

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@AC: 22:26

You make some pretty broad authoritative sounding claims.

Just a couple of points.

What was iTunes like when Apple bought it?

Is it still the same?

Has any R&D by Apple gone into it?

"More importantly, good on them if they do. USB was meant to be an open spec that is interchangable between devices, not locked down for specific devices as Apple is doing"

You seem to under the impression that it's not a connectivity tool. It is open and interchangeable between devices. The Pre still connects to the host computer as it should - it just doesn't connect to iTunes - much like Powerpoint not connecting to my Nikon camera while it's plugged in.

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@ AC 10:53 GMT

Don't waste your breath, the haters know no reason. Everybody else is completely aware that Palm should just build their own implementation / sync-app just as RIM and Nokia did. They are simply after the publicity, likely hoping to be seen as "the crazy ones" that challenge the mighty fruit. They should get a grip and focus on what is important: Make their stuff work on its own and get it sold to people without the darn exclusive-shackles.

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A letter Palm should ship with each Pre

"Dear Pre User,

Thank you for purchasing your Pre. We are sure the device will give you many months of happy usage. While we feel we can compete with Apple in terms of hardware, when it comes to software on your PC or Macintosh, we can't and so continually work on half-baked methods to allow your new device sync with iTunes.

Regretabbly, this arrangement is unofficial, and means that from time to time service may be interupted. We hope you are sufficiently enthused by your new Pre to stick with us, and not jump ship to Apple who can offer you a complete soloution that just works at the touch of a button.

From Palm."

Well, is there another way to look at it?

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@AC 06/10/09 09:31 GMT

First, let's get one thing absolutely clear. Monopolies ARE NOT unlawful per se. Abusing a monopoly position to stifle competition IS unlawful. This, in the USA is called ANTI-TRUST, and in the UK it is simply refered to as ANTI-COMPETITIVE BEHAVIOUR. "…Apple could implement blocking to protect their monopoly on the software side of things just as easily." They could if they actually had a monopoly. They won't because they know that would lead to an ANTI-TRUST law suit—besides they stand to gain nothing from doing so. It's also worth noting that they are doing nothing unlawful in this instance. Their PROPRIETARY software, their rules. Lets establish WHAT iTunes is; primarily a music/media manager and store front. The fact that it can sync to iPods is of benefit to APPLE'S customers alone, and therefore a secondary feature—it is categorically NOT primarily a syncing conduit. "It makes more sense to just use Apple's software and only fight the battle on the hardware front. The software battle would be a much harder one to fight." Where does this perceived software battle come from? Got a Prē and want to sync your data? Then Palm should produce software to enable you to do so! How are they syncing address books and calendars for instance? It works nicely for Nokia. It now works nicely for BlackBerry on both Mac and Windows. MarkSpace have managed to do this too, with the Prē! This is due in part to the open nature of the iTunes library (iTunes Music Library.xml). As for your snide "FWIW Apple put no R&D into iTunes either, they bought the technology off a 3rd party." So what? Microsoft bought SCP's QDOS to sell to IBM as an operating system, are you suggesting that in the years since Microsoft haven't invested in any R&D for their operating systems? The same goes for NeXT and Apple! I'm not trying to start a 'holy' OS war, just pointing out the pointlessness of the original statement. I'd suggest that the name change and increasing version numbers give the answer to those away! It's an utterly pointless 'FWIW', but I'll entertain you. iTunes was originally called 'SoundJam MP' and back in the day it was one of the best MP3 players for the Mac. It's a very different product now—Apple have invested heavily in it's development (R&D…) since the purchase. This would be a prime example of the expression "not reinventing the wheel". It's now much more than just a desktop MP3 player and whether it is any good, 'bloated' or otherwise is moot. Still, that doesn't suit your argument, does it? On that point, why not ignore the Apple desktop using minority and use the Windows Media framework? Surely that wouldn't harm sales of Palm's device? In fact I'd argue that it'd be a good stick with which to beat Apple, better than the cat and mouse game that Palm are bound to loose! The answer to that is elementary. This is calculated. Palm knows that it'll get them free publicity. They are trying to prompt Apple into taking legal action in order to garner ill feeling towards the fruity ones—although Apple are perfectly capable of doing this on their own! It's very cynical and desperate. Sure this is conjecture on my part, but there is no other rational reason to pursue the path that Palm are on, when in the longer term writing their own software would be far easier! I guarantee you that within the next fortnight Apple will update iTunes again.

How in the name of all things rational does the USB-IFs decision permit "Microsoft to allow their operating system to refuse anything with Apple's vendor ID to connect to it whilst allowing the Zune to continue connecting as normal."? I just doesn't! That would be a text book example of ANTI-TRUST for starters! Regardless of what anyone thinks about Microsoft, they are way smarter than that! I have read some over-dramatisation here, but that is quite a leap! For the record, Palm went to the USB-IF, who simply pointed out that in fact Palm shouldn't be doing what they were doing! Sure, 'dodgy' companies in Taiwan may, as you speculate, do the same, but then they don't go crying to the USB-IF expecting them to find in their favour! As I've already pointed out, Apple make the data available in an XML file. Last time I checked, XML was still open. iTunes is a PROPRIETARY piece of software. FACT. Apple DO NOT have to license its use to anyone else to use as a syncing conduit—especially given that the library data is available in an open format! There are already adequate frameworks and API's in place on the Mac AND Windows platforms that would allow Palm's devices to sync properly. Take your own advice and "Stop talking shit about things you clearly know nothing about.".

Apologies to all for the CAPS, it's the only way to emphasise specific words.

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FAIL

Lazy, just plain lazy

More to the point who would want to buy a phone from a company who apparantly don't even have the skills to develop a simple synching application for it??

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USB Vendor and device IDs

For those who are slightly confused by this .. I write software to interface through to a number of USB devices and we do check (and use) the vendor and product ID .. there's nothing wrong with this.

The main reason for doing this is that we then know what we're talking to and know how the hardware is going to respond. We don't actually use all the capabilities of the hardware, but if we needed to some time in the future we know that we could without any problems, because we 'know' what the hardware is.

Apple are unlikely to have released the hardware specs of their devices so Palm will have reverse engineered the communications. Unfortunately, all they know is what the hardware is doing at the time they did the reverse engineering. If Apple have decided to not implement a function, that non implementation is a time bomb. If Apple subsequently implement a function they expect the hardware to respond correctly. Unfortunately the Palm may not do so and what would get blamed? "I upgraded to iTunes 15 and my Palm bricked".

Apple have made no secret of the fact that their hardware is closed. In fact, it's a mainstay of their company philosophy. They control the hardware and the software (partly) with the aim of ensuring a compatibility between the bits. Palm want to bypass this. Fine. But in my opinion it is a technically unsound decision.

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Care

I might care one way or the other if I could actually by a Pre in Europe.

-A.

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MnM
Pint

@P 8 u-turn!

It was Zencoder being (deliberately?) lax with his language, and you merely referenced. Apologies for suggesting otherwise. Too much to read, y'see.

I wonder if that lyrical windbag The Other Steve will make a similar retraction. He really laid it on thick.

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Pint

RE : @P 8 u-turn!

No, it was P 8 who suggested that Ts&Cs could make something illegal. Only legislation can do that.[0]

"I wonder if that lyrical windbag The Other Steve will make a similar retraction. He really laid it on thick."

I know no other way :)

[0] Unless you're in the UK or some other banana republic where any random minister of state can just make up shit to criminalise, obviously.

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