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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I have a Pre, and this is what I think
by mbpark on Sat 25th Jul 2009 17:37 UTC
mbpark
Member since:
2005-11-17

I can think of one other instance where this has happened before.

Think of the case of MAC addresses and home routing devices. The first three bytes of the MAC address identify the vendor.

However, routers from almost every major manufacturer, including Cisco/Linksys, D-Link, Apple, and Belkin, allow you to clone the MAC address of your PC so that you can get around an archaic limitation the American cable companies (especially Comcast and @Home) used to place on you so that you could not connect more than 1 PC to their network. Companies like Comcast and @Home even supplied their own NIC cards, one of which I have (an SMC 10/100, hey it was free).

Essentially, this means that an Apple, Cisco/Linksys, D-Link, or Belkin router would be impersonating an Intel, Broadcom, SMC, or Realtek NIC to the cable companies.

Apple does this themselves with their routers by letting you specify a MAC address.

Does this mean that every device shipped by these vendors is in violation of IEEE vendor assignments? Other than some rumblings from Comcast years ago, this has never been big news.

Apple allows you to spoof MAC addresses with their routers, which violates the vendor ID assignment from IEEE for their devices. How is a USB device ID different than a MAC address? Are they not both assigned from standards/working groups?

If Apple's going to be pissy about this, they might as well just take that functionality out of their Airport routers so they don't look like hypocrites when they yell about Palm doing the same thing that they do themselves.

Reply Score: 3

galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Think of the case of MAC addresses and home routing devices. The first three bytes of the MAC address identify the vendor.

[snip]

Does this mean that every device shipped by these vendors is in violation of IEEE vendor assignments? Other than some rumblings from Comcast years ago, this has never been big news.


To be fair, there is a big difference. The vendors of equipment that allows MAC address spoofing simply give the user the ability to override the MAC address... They don't provide a competitors MAC address hardcoded into their equipment.

It is the user, not the vendor, that is changing the MAC address - and since the user isn't the one who registered for a MAC address they have violated no agreements.

That said, you bring up a good point. If Palm were to provide a mechanism on the Pre to input a "Custom USB ID" then they could in effect sidestep the whole USB licensing issue. Their users would need to acquire and input Apple's USB ID - but Palm would be off the hook and could continue promoting their device as USB compliant.

Reply Parent Score: 2

mbpark Member since:
2005-11-17

The point I was trying to make isn't that Palm ships their competition's USB ID, it's that Apple ships a device that gives the option to override the MAC address, and so do a lot of other companies.

I agree that Palm shipping a device with an Apple vendor ID is not a good thing, and is definitely not legal. However, this is a case where most end users don't even know what the heck a MAC address is, or even care.

On a Linksys router, the users know if they push the "Clone MAC" button that their Comcast works. There were and are actually a whole ton of other agreements that the users violated, and still are in violation of if you read the fine print of the Comcast and Verizon user agreements if you use a wireless router, but that's a different story about how some people and companies take things to extremes.

If you want a perfect example of that, look at the British TV licensing.

You can't have it both ways, and if it ever came to the courts, IMHO that would be the first thing the lawyers bring up.

If I were Palm, I would do the same thing. I'd make a little WebOS applet that changes the USB device ID to whatever vendor I chose. Problem solved.

It won't stop Apple from possibly suing them, but Palm and Apple apparently have a ton of mutually licensed patents, much like AMD and Intel do, that could cause a Mutually Assured Destruction scenario. Palm has been down this road before (See Graffiti). Don't think that just because Ed Colligan is gone that they won't be again.

Reply Parent Score: 2