Palm re-enables iTunes syncing for Pre in WebOS update

When the Palm Pre was first released, a lot of people found a certain feature rather interesting (and controversial); the Pre itself could be directly synced with iTunes, meaning Palm could use Apple's software for its own purposes. Apple didn't take any nonsense, and soon after released an iTunes update (8.2.1) removing said ability, and many assumed that that would be the end of it. Not quite. Gizmodo is reporting that a recent update to the Pre's operating system, WebOS, "resolves an issue preventing media sync from working with [the] latest version of iTunes (8.2.1)." In other words, they've undone Apple's changes.

An Apple tech note in June stated that, "Apple does not provide support for, or test for compatibility with, non-Apple digital media players." Fair enough, and that's why they released an update to kill off Palm's sneaky abilities, but as we mentioned, this has been undone. How? Pre Central has the low-down on how this feature got re-enabled. What Palm has done here is masked their phone as an iPod, which tricks iTunes into syncing with it. When Pre Central plugged their Pre into a Mac, whilst in Media Sync mode, the following was revealed:

Product ID: 0x8002
Vendor ID: 0x05ac (Apple Inc.)
Version: 0.16
Manufacturer: Palm Inc.

So, before the WebOS update, Palm has the Pre identify itself as a "mass storage device" which happened to be called an iPod, but now it's checking in as a "mass storage device manufactured by Apple" with the same name. However, when a company applies for a USB Vendor ID, it must adhere to the following:

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

Interesting. When chatting to All Things D, though, a Palm spokesperson named Lynn Fox said, "Palm believes that openness and interoperability offer better experiences for users by allowing them the freedom to use the content they own without interference across devices and services, so on behalf of consumers, we have notified the USB Implementers Forum [USB-IF] of what we believe is improper use of the Vendor ID number by another member." PC World speculates that perhaps Palm is in talks with Apple on making the syncing ability official, removing the need to go about it rather questionably, but given Apple's nature, this will probably end up going nowhere. Otherwise, Palm must be pretty confident in their lawyer's abilities, hoping they can pop Apple for anti-trust violations and ending up the victor. Regardless, expect to see this story develop pretty shortly.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Microsoft alters Laptop Hunter ad due to Apple's requests

Next Story

Microsoft proposes "Browser Ballot Screen" to the EU

34 Comments

View more comments

Deihmos said,
We all know why it's so slow and bloated on Windows but supposedly runs great on a Mac that I will never own. I have a Pre and I wish Palm made it sync properly with WMP because Itunes has to be one of the worse applications I have ever used yet it is so popular. The thing can't even monitor a folder or read jpg album art.

Wait so iTunes doesn't know when you add music to the iTunes folder? Haven't used it in soooo long.

artzm said,
Wait so iTunes doesn't know when you add music to the iTunes folder? Haven't used it in soooo long.

...as far as I know, it can Unless I'm wrong.

EDIT: I guess I was wrong

Deihmos said,
We all know why it's so slow and bloated on Windows but supposedly runs great on a Mac that I will never own. I have a Pre and I wish Palm made it sync properly with WMP because Itunes has to be one of the worse applications I have ever used yet it is so popular. The thing can't even monitor a folder or read jpg album art.

It used to read .jpg album artwork, but (I believe with 8.0) Apple changed this so that it used embedded artwork. You can right click on a song and "Get Album Artwork" if you wish. Or go into the song's properties to select artwork from your PC. I personally liked this improvement.

I've never added a song to the folder, I add songs through iTunes.

As for the bloat and slowness, I wish it were a bit faster, but no one has explained to me why it is slow... It's much faster than it once was...

Itunes cannot monitor any folders. You have to manually add music and video to the library and I never bought anything from itunes nor do I plan to. It's too much work to embed art into each track/album for a program that is so popular it should be able to automatically do this. Media Monkey can sync with ipods and it automatically does it for you.

I find version 8 to be much slower than 7 and it still doesn't read jpg album art. The only reason I tried this program was because of the Palm Pre but I didn't expect much since I used quicktimes before.

It definitely doesn't "watch folders" on windows which is one of my main gripes. Not everyone buys their music from iTunes but Apple doesn't seem to care. Automatically updating changed folders is a minimum I need from a media player.

Being honest, on the hackintosh I had ages ago, itunes was a slow sluggish POS on that too, not only windows, so it's either got some queer code or doesn't like native x86 processors

It's a Carbon application, yet it's pretty fast. Not for videos, but everything else = awesome.

When it'll be Cocoa, it'll be screaming on the Mac.

Deihmos said,
We all know why it's so slow and bloated on Windows but supposedly runs great on a Mac that I will never own. I have a Pre and I wish Palm made it sync properly with WMP because Itunes has to be one of the worse applications I have ever used yet it is so popular. The thing can't even monitor a folder or read jpg album art.

If Palm had done it properly in the first place instead of trying to piggyback on iTunes, then you would have been able to sync with WMP (assuming they did actually do it properly)

PsykX said,
It's a Carbon application, yet it's pretty fast. Not for videos, but everything else = awesome.

When it'll be Cocoa, it'll be screaming on the Mac.


It'll run the same using Cocoa, there's no speed difference.

Deihmos said,
It's too much work to embed art into each track/album for a program that is so popular it should be able to automatically do this.

Err, it does do this automatically, assuming you're setting up the Artist / Album name correctly. Right click -> Get Album Art. Done.

Get album art trys to download art from the music store as Itunes completely ignores jpg tags located in the music folder. This is a fact so I don't think you understand what you are talking about. The get album art hardly works also.

Deihmos said,
We all know why it's so slow and bloated on Windows but supposedly runs great on a Mac that I will never own.

A friend of mine owns an iMac running OS X 10.4, and he is (to his utter disappointment), using iTunes, which he DESPISES, because it runs just as badly on his Mac as it does on his other PC's. He's already asked me to get him setup on a different platform next week.

And to answer your next potential comment, no he's not very tech savvy, and he got setup on iTunes by his previous techie, which happens to be a total moron. Once I showed him different software for media management, he immediately asked me to switch him over. Oh, and he also asked me to put his iMac on craigslist because he doesn't want it anymore after seeing my Vista laptop. Enough said.

Good for Palm. I don't think that Apple should provide support for other devices, as that's not their responsibility, but if a company gets iTunes working with their device Apple shouldn't be purposely breaking this ability. Not that I'm surprised that they did this...

Good for Palm though.

Problem is that by not explicitly blocking it, it could be viewed as implicitly supporting it.

And I doubt Apple want to deal with support issues from a 3rd party trying to force their device to work with their software (look at jailbroken iPhones, issues with those are still blamed on Apple or software makers, even though it's the users fault)

I'm kind of conflicted about this issue. Overall, I'm going to have to side with Apple on this. If Apple doesn't want non-authorized Media Players syncing directly with iTunes then that is there prerogative. Palm can make a stand-alone sync program that syncs the music in the iTunes music folder with their Palm Pre. Playlists, play counts, and ratings won't be there but the music will be.

I'm conflicted because I do think that companies should embrace open standards that enable hardware and software to play nicely with each other. At the same time, I think that companies should be able to choose their own direction with the software they write (even when it comes to limitations such as only providing a particular web browser written for a particular OS.)

I am not sure if Apple can sue them.

ITunes is a part of OSX just like Windows Media Player is for Windows, it should be normal that interacts withother devices.

Not according to Apple. They go out the way to prevent other media programs from being able to sync with Ipods. Sometimes I wonder how those things got so popular when there were much better MP3 players on the market. Clever marketing I guess

What people seem to be ignoring is the fact that Palm could likely have avoided this problem in the first place if they had actually worked with Apple as Motorola did with some of their older phones. You can still to this day sync a ROKR, SLVR, or some models of RAZR with iTunes. Why? Because Motorola actually worked with Apple and did things the right way.

They did at the time, but considering that those phones had a maximum storage capacity of 512MB or 1GB (depending on model), that was to be expected at the time they were released. You really couldn't get much more than 100 AAC songs in 512 MB anyway.

Also, dont forget that the pre is a direct competitor to the iphone whereas the ROKR never really competed with any apple product due to the 100 song limit. Thats the only reason it was allowed to exist, and the same reason that the pre wont be allowed to do the same.

Its just a monopoly really. (Unfair at that)
They have an unrivalled market share in media management and are scared of anyone coming close to their precious software. So when anyone touches or tampers with its syncing abilities, its like disturbing a bees nest.

Commenting is disabled on this article.