Linked by Eugenia Loli on Fri 24th Jul 2009 22:52 UTC
Editorial Every few years we geeks have our own kind of popcorn show to watch: tech companies showing teeth to one another. This time around, it's Palm vs Apple. In all seriousness though, how ethical is the battle around iTunes?
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by BTrey on Fri 24th Jul 2009 23:34 UTC
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Palm should have not done that because it's not ethical to claim that you're someone else.

There is no person claiming that they're someone else. There is a device that replies with the response necessary in order to interface with a particular program. It's called reverse engineering for compatibility and there's absolutely nothing unethical about it. Comparing a person misrepresenting their identity with a device providing a response code is downright silly. I expect, and usually get, higher quality analysis than that from this website.

Apple, by their ill considered and arrogant actions, are the ones who set up the requirements which compelled Palm's action in order to interoperate with the software. If it's unethical to use a Palm device with iTunes by providing the required response code, then it's also unethical to "trick" a Windows program into thinking it's running on Windows via a Linux Wine installation.

Reply Score: 12

RE: Ethics
by Eugenia on Fri 24th Jul 2009 23:40 in reply to "Ethics"
Eugenia Member since:

I disagree.

"Unauthorized use of assigned or unassigned USB Vendor ID Numbers and associated Product ID Numbers are strictly prohibited."

This is what the signed contracts say, for any manufacturer that uses USB. Palm did overstep boundaries. And to me, that's both a legal and an ethical problem.

Edited 2009-07-24 23:40 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Ethics
by Macrat on Sat 25th Jul 2009 03:11 in reply to "RE: Ethics"
Macrat Member since:

Note that Blackberry ships a syncing app that can parse the iTunes library without having to pretend to be an iPod.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Ethics
by David on Sat 25th Jul 2009 05:14 in reply to "RE: Ethics"
David Member since:

I do believe that for violation of the terms of the USB contract, the only thing at stake is being able to claim that your device is USB compliant, and to be able to use the USB logo. So as long as Palm doesn't care that it's officially USB compliant, they could unilaterally withdraw from its obligations under that contract, which I believe they would be able to do in a completely ethical way.

I might be misunderstanding the complete terms of the agreement with the USB consortium, but I that's my contribution to the debate.

As for making a device that "pretends" to be another device, I don't think that's unethical at all. Have you ever used a universal remote? Is there anything wrong with that? How much do you want to be that Sony wishes it could force you to buy new remotes from them only?

But I do agree with you 100% that Apple has reached the point where their iTunes and iPod market share have qualified them as a bona fide monopoly, and that therefore their competitors qualify for some consideration and protection under anti-trust law. I agree with the main thrust of your thesis that Palm should have pressed its case in the courts instead of with a tit for tat game.

Edited 2009-07-25 05:18 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[2]: Ethics
by rdean400 on Sun 26th Jul 2009 15:46 in reply to "RE: Ethics"
rdean400 Member since:

I don't think it's a question that Palm violated that clause, but I think it's a fair argument that Apple did, too.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: Ethics
by ralish on Sun 26th Jul 2009 08:51 in reply to "Ethics"
ralish Member since:

No, there IS a device claiming it is something else, as it replies with USB Vendor IDs that are assigned to Apple for use with THEIR devices. Palm does not have the ethical right to use these IDs, and quite possibly, not the legal right. This isn't a matter of simply replying with the required code, it admittedly is that, but it's also doing so in order to interoperate with a product, despite the fact that the author of said product quite clearly does not wish to interoperate.

Now, you can disagree with this mentality of trying to break interoperability, and personally, I do disagree with it strongly, I think it's completely wrong. However, I also need to recognise that this is Apple's software, Apple's devices, and Apple's IP (however ill-gained), and I fail to see why they are legally compelled (if not ethically compelled) to make their software interoperable. It'd be nice if they did, but they don't have to, and frankly, from a business sense, I can see why. iTunes is clearly meant to be seen as part of the advantage of owning an Apple PMP (I view it as the opposite), and allowing it to work with competitors products is essentially giving them a free and possibly highly compelling advantage.

Further, your comparison of running a Windows product under WINE is invalid and a fallacy, as the Windows product has likely made no attempt to attempt to ensure that the product does not run under WINE, and likely, neither does the author have any objections. Both are not the case in this instance.

This notion that if a company doesn't make their products interoperable they should be taken to court with an "I'll sue you " mentality is ultimately just childish in my view; it reeks of you not being able to use a product you'd like to use on the terms you desire, so instead, I'll just make a monopolistic legal threat and be done with it. I deeply want a greater proliferation of standards and interoperability, and I think that the computing industry is likely to, even if slowly, gravitate towards this as it makes logical sense. But legal threats and psuedo-ethical rationalising are not the way forward, and only serve to alienate the very people and companies who you want to get onside.

Option #2, contributing to Songbird, on the other hand, seems like a very wise move that could be beneficial for many people.

Reply Parent Score: 1