The cat and mouse game over the Palm Pre’s ability to sync with iTunes may soon be coming to an end.
Just a few weeks ago, Apple released an iTunes update which prevented the Pre from syncing up with iTunes. Shortly thereafter, Palm answered with an update of its own with the release of webOS 1.1, an update which re-enabled the Pre to sync up with and transfer media files from iTunes.
In terms of how this all works, the Pre, when first released, identified itself as a “mass storage device” called an iPod. After Apple took measures to block that, Palm issued a software update which then caused the Pre to masquerade as a device with an Apple USB Vendor ID.
Sound shady? You betcha.
But Palm certainly has cojones, because after their most recent WebOS update, they filed a complaint with the USB Implementors Forum, alleging that Apple was in violation of USB guidelines for discriminating against certain USB Vendor ID’s.
The obvious irony is that spoofing a USB Vendor ID, as Palm has done by spoofing Apple’s, is in clear violation of the initial contract companies must adhere to in order to receive a unique USB Vendor ID in the first place. The pertinent portion of the contract states that “Unauthorized use of assigned or unassigned USB Vendor ID Numbers and associated Product ID Numbers are strictly prohibited.”
So yeah, Palm is definitely skating on some thin ice with some out of date skates, and they might have just fallen through the ice to boot.
Yesterday, the USB Implementors Forum responded to the brewing issue between Palm and Apple and basically dealt Palm a death blow.
Palm, in its initial letter to the USB Implementors Forum, wrote that Apple’s actions prevent iTunes from working with non-Apple USB devices, and that that violates “the letter and spirit of the USB-IF Membership Agreement” which is “intended to facilitate interoperability between USB devices, not to regulate the content that flows between them.”
The USB Implementors Forum, though, weren’t swayed by Palm’s point of view, and issued a letter to them stating, “In the view of the USB-IF, Palm’s allegation (if true) does not establish that Apple is using its Vendor ID (VID) contrary to the USB-IF’s policies. Therefore, under present USB-IF policies, the USB-IF does not consider the alleged use, without more, to be ‘improper'”
The forum also took umbrage with Palm’s stated intention to keep on fiddling with the Pre to ensure that it will continue to sync with iTunes in the future.
… Your letter also states that:
“Palm will shortly issue an update of its WebOS operating system that uses Apple’s Vendor ID number for the sole purpose of restoring the Palm media sync functionality.”
I attach for your information the USB-IF’s adopted and published policy regarding Vendor Identification Numbers (VIDs). Under the Policy, Palm may only use the single Vendor ID issued to Palm for Palm’s usage. Usage of any other company’s Vendor ID is specifically precluded. Palm’s expressed intent to use Apple’s VID appears to violate the attached policy.
Please clarify Palm’s intent and respond to this potential violation within seven days.
Palm, in response, issued the following statement:
We engaged with the USB-IF because we believe consumers should have freedom and choice in how and where they use the non-rights managed media they already own. We are reviewing the letter from the USB-IF and will respond as appropriate.
As it stands now, the recent release of iTunes 9 has blocked the ability of the Pre, yet again!, from attaching itself to iTunes, and it will be interesting to see if Palm truly follows up on its word and issues a software update to re-enable syncing sometime soon.
Our take is that Palm is arguing a moral case in a forum where such arguments carry no weight. The USB Forum is concerned with parties adhering to the rules they’re contracted to follow, not with flighty arguments about whether or not Apple needs to make its hardware compatible with all types of third party devices.
It’s about time Palm give up this fight as its only a losing battle. If the recent letter from the USB forum doesn’t make it obvious that the jig is up, then we don’t know what will.