Article: The Palm Pre War?

by on June 1, 2009

Unless you’ve been ignoring everything that deals with technology news, Palm’s Pre is the newest “iPhone killer” on the market. It hasn’t even been released yet, and there’s already some controversy surrounding a report that the Pre syncs with iTunes (and iPhoto) seamlessly.

Some are crying foul in that the Pre apparently looks like an iPod to iTunes to accomplish this process. Any songs or podcasts can be copied over, with the exception of the older Protected AAC files from the iTunes Music Store. Essentially, the process makes the Pre look like an iPod by mimicking the iPod’s USB ID. This is how your computer can tell one type of device from another. Nobody is for sure what specific iPod model it is pretending it is, but that seems to be the crux of the issue.

Many people forget that Apple supported MP3 players in iTunes long before the iPod or the iTunes Music Store were on the scene. However, this was done with Apple’s blessing and often using the MP3 players required either built-in functionality in iTunes or a plug-in that allowed the device to synchronize. The difference now is that the Pre has neither.

This has led to numerous pieces on whether or not Apple’s legal team will be fighting off Palm and their yet-unreleased device. To be honest, we really don’t know what the outcome will be, as the Pre isn’t likely to even be a threat to the iPhone. It works on Sprint’s network. The iPhone is on AT&T. People will choose based on their carrier or switch if they really want a device badly enough. Furthermore, it seems that the Pre’s synchronizing with iPhoto would not be a big deal—most third-party digital cameras work fine.

As for the issue of the Pre looking like an iPod to sync with iTunes—perhaps this is Palm’s way of testing the waters to see if Apple wants to play ball. For some, the iPhone may not be the product for them, but if they do buy a competing product, why not make it easy enough for them to transfer their songs (some that they bought from Apple) to a device without worrying about lousy third-party software? I remember Palm’s HotSync software and it was absolutely terrible—it worked great under Mac OS 9, but the OS X version stopped working after a few system updates and reinstalls were hardly fun or easy. That and the fact that my iPod and cell phone did basic contact and calendar synchronization on OS X really put the last nail in the coffin for using Palm OS devices.

As for Apple, this could be a great opportunity to demonstrate that the iPod and iTunes aren’t really a closed system. Most people would still keep buying iPods and iPhones for fact that they already have prior accessories or know their way around the devices. However, as Apple did remove the DRM restrictions on music, it would demonstrate that they would rather have you use at least iTunes and some other devices than some other jukebox software (Windows Media Player, anyone?).

It seems so many web sites are jumping to conclusions on how it’s accomplished or who’s wrong and right, and this is all based on a report about a pre-release device. For my thoughts on the subject, I could be totally wrong and Apple’s legal team could sue the pants off of Palm this week just before the device is introduced. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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