Earlier this year, it became known that the Palm Pre, engineered by a number of ex-Apple engineers, could interface with Apple’s iTunes as if it was an iPod. Everybody more or less expected Apple to block the Pre from syncing with iTunes, but I don’t think any of us had anticipated just how forthright Apple would be about it.
Apple today released iTunes 8.2.1, and after you install this new release, the Palm Pre will no longer sync with iTunes. When you connect your Pre, iTunes will still respond by bringin itself to front, but that’s all it’ll do. While this shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who knows Apple even a little, it is surprising just how forthright Apple is about this move.
El Reg contacted Apple about the move, and they got a very open and honest statement about this situation. “iTunes 8.2.1 is a free software update that provides a number of important bug fixes. It also disables devices falsely pretending to be iPods, including the Palm Pre,” an Apple spokesperson told El Reg.
For a company whose usual release notes amount to little more than “This update comes with new stuff”, and who usually doesn’t even acknowledge the actual existence of competitors, this is pretty open and honest. Very refreshing and welcome.
What is interesting is whether or not this is going to raise any antitrust issues. The iTunes music store has a serious monopoly in the online music business, and blocking third party devices from interacting with this store could raise some little red flags over at Neelie Kroes’ office. Imagine what would happen if Microsoft blocked other browsers from installing on Windows.
For Palm Pre users, there is little to worry about. The Palm Pre is quite open when it comes to its storage (contrary to closed and restrictive devices like the iPod and iPhone), so there are lots of solutions out there for getting stuff on your Pre, including something like DoubleTwist which even enables iTunes integration.
This doesn’t block users from using the iTunes Store: you can still use iTunes, buy music on the iTS and then drag and drop the files in your Pre. This prevents the Pre from masquerading as an iPod, which is smart but dirty hack.
So Apple is not preventing Pre users from buying music or using iTunes, it just reserves the awesomeness of seamless sync to iPod/iPhone owners.
Palm could pay some devs to build an app that uses the iTunes Library’s XML file, which is something Apple officially supports.