With the latest update of iTunes 8.2.1 Apple eventually blocks Palm Pre users from syncing with iTunes. It seems Palm knew very carefully how to emulate the iPod verification protocol of iTunes. How comes?
Some major Palm Guys are former major Apple Guys
One could ask Palm’s CEO Jon Rubinstein, or Palm’s SVP of Product Development Mike Bell, or Palm’s spokeswoman Lynn Fox. As all of these three guys are former Apple guys. Rubinstein was Apple’s architect of the iTunes-iPod concept, Mike Bell was the Vice President of the Mac Hardware Division, and Lynn Fox was Head of PR at Apple.
Anyway Apple now decided to fix this issue and bar Palm Pre users from using iTunes for syncing. But what looks like a simple update in the first place may be viewed as a strategic answer to Palm’s boldness to make the Pre pretend being an iPod for iTunes.
Some Technical Aspects
According to DVD Jon the iPod emulation was not too complicated. Palm needed to emulate
- the USB interface so that it responds with Apple’s Vendor ID and an iPod Product ID
- the structure of an iPod filesystem
- some XML info about the iPod device using a custom Apple USB command
But the the root USB node (IOUSBDevice) still identified the emulated iPod as a Palm Pre (find more details here).
David vs. Goliath
Does Apple fear Palm here? It seems like Palm is putting Apple under some pressure here. The Palm Pre is widely considered as the only real iPhone competitor and allowing it to sync with iTunes would make it more favourable for users who don’t like the proprietory iPhone concept. On the other hand Apple’s step to block it from iTunes again makes the iPhone and iPods the only choice for iTunes users. Anyway it shows obviously that a little fight is going on between Apple and Palm. This topic is under hot discussion on the PreCentral site.
Palm’s spokeswoman Lynn Fox just responded to Apple’s step “Palm’s media sync works with iTunes 8.2. If Apple chooses to disable media sync in 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 can consider.”