back to article Palm slams Apple, hoodwinks iTunes

Palm has filed a complaint with an industry group that monitors USB standards, claiming that Apple is "hampering competition" by locking the Palm Pre out of iTunes. The same complaint also reveals details of how the Pre tricks iTunes into thinking it's an iPod. At issue is the tussle between Apple and Palm over the Palm Pre's …


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Yeah this doesn't seem right

iTunes isn't an OS, it's a media syncing application and music/video purchasing tool. Now that nearly, if not all, music has been made DRM free on iTunes there isn't any valid argument that demands Apple make it compatible with other products.

Pretty much all of the content on iTunes is available from online stores like Amazon anyway, so this was never a monopoly issue - which I suppose Palm know given their weird decision to attack from a USB standards viewpoint.

The ironic thing is if Apple decide they'll be damned if they'll let Palm use their software, Palm may very well have made their device incompatible with every online store. Amazon for example are explicit about their video files not being compatible with the iPod and it wouldn't surprise me if that incompatibility now includes the Palm Pre.

And even Apple fanbois admit iTunes is at best an average media management tool. It's slow, messy and unintuitive. In fact it isn't any better than Media Player.

If Palm had decided to make a decent media application, their iTunes using customers could have continued to use iTunes and may well have decided to get any video or audio book content they wanted from somewhere like Amazon. Not that it matters, not many people use a cell phone to watch movies or TV and probably never will. There just isn't a need for it outside of waiting at an airport gate or sitting on a train. Even then pretty much any computer would be better, which most traveling workers with cell phones have in the form of a notebook.

A real breakthrough would be to create a media organising and purchasing application that sync'd and organised music bought from iTunes (or any other store) as well as allowing direct purchasing from Amazon and perhaps a few others.

If the application improved the experience of organising, playing and syncing media then pretty much everyone, even non-Palm users, would take a serious look at it. Other applications exist that do some of this, but none of them allow you to purchase directly from non-iTunes stores (as far as I know) apart from those stores own klutzy and even worse than iTunes media players.


USB-IF, EULA, and Standards

Version 2.0 of the USB specification (April 27, 2000) final, Section 9.5.1:

"If the class or vendor specific descriptors use the same format as standard descriptors ... the case or vendor-specific descriptors shall follow a related standard descriptor they modify or extend." (http://www.usb.org/developers/docs/usb_30_spec_052109.zip)

Therefore, there is nothing to stop Palm from returning "case specific" descriptor information that follows the same format as standard descriptors. There is nothing in the USB 2.0 Adpoters Agreement (http://www.usb.org/developers/docs/adopters.pdf) that requires using the values dictated by USB-IF.

So, Palm was being courteous in notifying USB-IF of its modification, but was not required by the specification nor the adopters agreement. The meat of Palm's notification was the request for review of Apple's use of the specification; not necessarily something that the USB-IF can really rule on - Apple can not lose the "USB" compatibility logo, and neither can Palm. Mostly this seems to be pressuring Apple to stop tweaking, without going to the courts.

From iTunes EULA EA0367 (http://images.apple.com/legal/sla/docs/itunes.pdf) Section 2:

"... Except as and only to the extent expressly permitted in this License or by applicable law, you may not copy, decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, modify, or create derivative works of the Apple Software or any part thereof. ..."

So, while XML (and MP3, AAC, etc.) may be a *standard*, the explicit format of the data created and used by iTunes that _happens to be stored in XML compliant text file format_ (the schema) is copyright, and protected by copyright law. Also, its use, access, etc. is expressly prohibited by the EULA (see above). Violation of the EULA is a breach of contract, and has nothing to do with copyright law, btw (no criminal penalties, merely civil).

One excemption implied in the EULA (to keep Apple from being sued by the US) is reverse engineering for interoperability (US Code § 1201.f.1-4) This applies for other issues of non-Apple hardware and Apple software (Psystar and OSX, anyone?). Under this, it is expressly allowed to circumvent Apple DRM lock-in (iTunes only working with Apple devices to sync). Whether anyone wishes to acknowlege it or not, Apple's technological efforts to only allow Apple-branded devices to work with iTunes constitutes DRM, sorry. Without this exception allowed by the DMCA, APPLE COULD SUE YOU FOR COPYING THE FILES USED BY iTUNES TO YOUR NON-APPLE USB PLAYER. Yes, that does include media "bought" (sorry, "licensed" - you still don't own it) from iTunes, as stated in the EULA above (section 5). Don't suppose anyone thought of that? No? Hmmm.

A good, cursory look (with references) at this was done in 2006: http://weblog.ipcentral.info/archives/2006/08/interoperabilit_3.html

Anonymous Coward

Enough 'rights' - this is how it goes down

I love all the talk based on assumed 'rights' - but these moral arguments aren't going to have any effect on how this turns out in the end.

When Palm decided to emulate the iPOD USB you can be sure they spent a lot of time talking to their lawyers about real actual legal rights before releasing it and did it anyway.

When Apple saw this happening you can bet your last groat that their first call was to their lawyers - but the eventual response was a technical one. Given how sue-happy Apple are this strongly suggests that they couldn't think of a legal recourse that would stick - and certainly not one that would get them a preliminary injunction stopping the Pre and effectively killing the Pre before it gets started in the market.

So Palm will do what they want and Apple will respond in kind. Palm may be writing/sourcing alternate sync software - but any software will always be less convenient than just having everything work automatically when the Pre is plugged in - just the way it does now. So I don't think I'd be assuming Palm will back down on this one.

As the article notes Apple can continue this game by using other USB descriptor fields - and Palm can then emulate those fields as well. Remember that the Pre asks what it should do on USB (act as a flash drive, do nothing, emulate a iPod) so they can keep playing this game without impacting the ability to sync via drag&drop or with other software developed by Palm or a third party.

After that there are things Apple could still do, but those generally would require iPOD & iPhone device firmware changes which, I guess, Apple would like to avoid. I assume every time Apple issue a firmware upgrade a small number of units are bricked and if Apple are forced to accept responsibility for those bricked units as collateral damage in this game that nobody except Apple cares about then the game gets expensive for Apple very quickly. At first glance the same is true for Palm - but they've been wise enough to make their un-bricking tools available to the public and their updates will probably come with new useful functionality as well.

My guess? Apple has already decided that this isn't the battleground they want to fight on. You can't watch a TV in the US without being bombarded by Apple ads - all of which talk about apps rather than the device. Apple will go a few more rounds to see if they can outwit/outlast Palm and to raise FUD in the minds of potential Pre buyers - but will stop short of firmware changes.

Finally it's worth noting that Pre owners are now well-warned against accepting iTunes updates when offered, so that trick won't be very effective again. I guess Apple could escalate by forcing iTunes updates (technically, or by stopping the music store from working with older versions of iTunes S/W) - but I don't think they want to go there either...


It's not Apples software when it's running on my computer!

I have to use iTunes if I want to buy music from the iTunes Music Store. I don't want to have to use yet-another piece of software to synch with my preferred player.

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Ian Davies

There's no solid logical connection between your second paragraph and your third. You correctly identify two of the problematic behaviours for which Microsoft was pursued (there were others), but then inexplicably ignore one of them entirely - the interoperability issue - in your third paragraph, because it wouldn't suit your argument.

You're just circling back to the initial, pathetic argument that Palm 'couldn't be arsed'. As I said, that just doesn't pass the smell test. You honestly think Palm sat around and thought 'yeah, we'll bet the entire future of the company on this Pre / WebOS thing and spend kajillions of dollars and almost all our time and effort on it, but we won't spare a couple of new hires for two weeks to write a basic media sync tool'? Please. The point is that if they just wrote their own media sync tool, they'd be at an inevitable comparative disadvantage to Apple, because of how Apple has artificially created a locked-in ecosystem between the popular iPod / iPhone hardware and the propped-up iTunes software. If Apple hadn't done that, Palm could write their own software (or, more likely, use whatever sensible third-party players had emerged as the market leaders) and be in a perfectly fine position. Because of Apple's artificially distorting behaviour, they can't. It's got nothing to do with whether they could be 'arsed'. I've already written about this at length, yet you seem perfectly happy to ignore it entirely.

Gold badge

Apple and Palm are rivals

Why would Apple let Palm (a rival) do what they like with iTunes?

Should Apple let a Zune sync with iTunes like an iPod? nope, why is Palm any different?


@Adam Williamson 1 - way to fail...

I've just spent at least an hour of my life writing a response to your, well frankly tripe is the only word that describes it, that'll I'll never get back. Thanks. I can't be arsed now to reply to you inane and inaccurate rambling save this; a monopoly is not defined as "having the vast majority of customers *in that market*, not having a vast majority of the _entire world population_ as your customers." at all and brings in to question the rest of the shite that you have written. A monopoly occurs in a situation where there is a SINGLE SELLER in the market (source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ). You are nearly right in as much as there are few real world examples of monopolies in *any* market. Your description of a monopoly is just wrong. It's also worth noting that there is nothing in the statues of ANY country suggesting that having a monopoly is unlawful of illegal. Stop being an arrogant and opinionated little fanboy and come back when you understand these simple rules of how not to look like a dick; do your research first, *understand* the terminology, legislation and any other issues, then form your opinions. Failtard.



All seems much ado about nothing. if this hadn't turned into a public media battle, then it would have been sensible for Apple and Palm to come to a gentleman's agreement: Palm get to leverage existing iTunes users and Librarys, and Apple get revenue from Pre users on the iTunes Music store.

Now it's turned into a public PR Battle, neither side can really back down.

Having said that, if I was palm, I'd go about making a WinAmp plugin - if nothing else, that would get the tecchies and BOFHs on side.

And, responding to an earlier comment, Winamp works great with iPods - iTunes is simple, which is it's blessing and curse. found so many features missing compared to other library managers, I quickly removed it stuck with the llama-whipping app.

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@Simon Banyard

Legally speaking, in most jurisdictions (including the U.S. and E.U.), a monopoly is not defined as the single seller in a market. Otherwise Microsoft would never have been declared a monopoly; there are other sellers of operating systems, office suites, and web browsers. Being the single seller may be the definition in pure economics terms, but pure economics is much like pure math - it has very little to do with the real world. :) Any country with antitrust laws defines monopoly rather more loosely than 'sole seller in a market', and it's the legal definition we're concerned with here.

There's nothing illegal about having a monopoly, no. _Abusing_ a monopoly (which term also has a precise legal definition) is illegal. That's how Microsoft was prosecuted. I already said there's nothing wrong with Apple's monopoly on hardware music players. At issue is how they've abused that monopoly to artificially improve their standing in the _software_ music player market, in order to disadvantage other producers of both hardware _and_ software music players.

And, uh, fanboy? I don't own anything made by Palm or Apple. My phone's from HTC.

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B 9

Your assertion that Apple don't work specifically to prevent iPods from working with third party applications is simply incorrect. Ask the developers of libgpod. Here's a blog post:


Here's a juicy quotation:

"Then, in August 2007, they added a new hash to the database to block non-iTunes software. This was quicky reverse-engineered and support was added to gtkpod once again.

In November 2008, they changed the hash again. This time, Apple used code-obfuscation software on iTunes in an effort to complicate reverse-engineering a second time. When a wiki was put up to start documenting the new hash, Apple sent a takedown notice."

Your suggestion that iPod and iTunes just 'grew together' is silly. iTunes would be nowhere near as popular as it is without the iPod. The iPod is the major factor, dwarfing others by miles, in iTunes' popularity.


Non-technical users

I think many people are failing to understand the true nature of iTunes dominance because we're all technically astute / power users.

Normal, non-technical users want one way of doing things, and once they learn how it works, they stick to it. If you took your average (non-geek) ipod owner and told them to copy mp3s to their ipod without using itunes, by simply dragging and dropping them into the ipod drive using a file manager, I can absolutely guarantee most wouldn't have a clue how to do it. (Believe me, I'm in tech support, you won't believe how little proficiency most people have with the very basics of using a computer)

The point being, most people who've ever bought an mp3 player bought an ipod (just look at the sales figures.) Because they bought an ipod, they use itunes.

In their minds, you need itunes to get music onto your mp3 player. You could explain that you can do it just as easily with other software, but why should they? They know how to use itunes, why change? In fact, most users are afraid to change.

That wouldn't be a problem, if other hardware devices could use itunes too. But they can't.

So we have a situation where if you want to make an mp3 player, you'll be at a major disadvantage trying to sell it because it won't work with itunes, which is what most people want, no, NEED to use.

So what's so wrong about that? It's Apple's software, they can do what they want.

Well, not according to the DOJ and the EU.

They told MS they couldn't use the fact that most people who buy computers want to use Windows on them to force users to use Internet Explorer as the web browser.

In other words, to spell it out: Just because it's your software, doesn't mean you can do what you like with it. As soon as you're the dominant player in the market (Which ipod / itunes is, by miles), then that becomes illegal because it's anti-competitive.

It wasn't Microsoft's fault they were the dominant desktop OS. They worked hard and spent billions of dollars to achieve that. BUT the DoJ still stopped them from doing what they wanted with their own software.

It's not Apple's fault they're dominant in the mp3 market. They spent billions of dollars to achieve that. BUT... etc.

Silver badge

Still missing it

The Law of the Land, recognising that interoperability is essential for a fair marketplace, says that Ford are not allowed to prevent you from fitting non-Ford accessories to a Ford car.

They don't have to make it easy, but neither can they use the force of law to stop you.

This means that: Any act that would ordinarily be illegal, is allowed -if and only if- it is necessary in order to defeat a manufacturer's unlawful tactics to prevent you from exercising your statutory right to use your own property as you see fit.

The same law that applies to Ford applies to Apple. They can try to hold you to a licence agreement, but any part of that agreement that seeks to diminish your statutory rights has no validity in law.



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