Apple finally breaks ability of the Palm Pre to sync up with iTunes

Wed, Jul 15, 2009


It was reported shortly before the Palm Pre release that Pre users would be able to sync up their devices to iTunes to transfer media content.  Now, a little over a month later, Apple has finally tweaked iTunes to preclude the Pre from syncing up.

Earlier today, Apple released iTunes update 8.2.1, which according to the description “provides a number of important bug fixes and addresses an issue with verification of Apple devices.”

The last part of that sentence is key because the Pre was able to seamlessly connect to iTunes by tricking it into thinking that it was actually an iPod.

Having the Pre sync up with iTunes always seemed like a risky move for Palm, and we never quite understood what it was aiming for.  What happens now that Palm Pre users who were recently accustomed to using iTunes to sync up their content find that iTunes no longer recognizes their device?  Will Palm issue a software update in an attempt to get around Apple’s most recent measures?  Will a prolonged cat-and-mouse game between Palm and Apple ensue?  What a horrible situation for users to get stuck in the middle of, and it makes absolutely zero sense that Palm would subject its users to that.  Hopefully Palm, for the sake of its users, will leave things as they are.

Whether you agree with Apple’s actions or not, you can’t say that Palm didn’t see this coming.

A few weeks ago Apple issued a support doc that directly addressed the ability of the Pre to sync up with iTunes. Titled “iTunes: About unsupported third-party digital media players”, the document reads:

Apple designs the hardware and software to provide seamless integration of the iPhone and iPod with iTunes, the iTunes Store, and tens of thousands of apps on the App Store. Apple is aware that some third-parties claim that their digital media players are able to sync with Apple software. However, Apple does not provide support for, or test for compatibility with, non-Apple digital media players and, because software changes over time, newer versions of Apple’s iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with non-Apple digital media players.

Shortly after that, former Apple executive and current head of Palm PR, Lynn Fox, responded to Apple’s thinly veiled threat that iTunes support for the Pre was liable to change.

Palm’s media sync works with the current version of iTunes. If Apple chooses to disable media sync in a future version of iTunes, it will be a direct blow to their users who will be deprived of a seamless synchronization experience. However, people will have options. They can stay with the iTunes version that works to sync their music on their Pre, they can transfer the music via USB, and there are other third-party applications we could consider.

Well, it looks like Apple has won this round, and it’s not being shy about it either.  Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said today about the update: “It also disables devices falsely pretending to be iPods, including the Palm Pre. As we’ve said before, newer versions of Apple’s iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with unsupported digital media players.”



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