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.

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