Palm Loses Its iTunes Sync Workaround, Yet Again


How long is the spitting contest between Apple's iTunes and Palm going to continue? Hopefully not much longer, seeing as the seesaw battle tottered back in Apple's favor Thursday with the release of iTunes 9.0.2. That update once again disables Palm's workaround to sync Palm phones like the Pre with iTunes.

Seeing as the iTunes 9.0.2 update represents the third time Apple has successfully blocked Palm's sync workaround, will Palm finally give up the fight once and for all? Or, better yet, will it go the route of Research In Motion's BlackBerry and develop its own iTunes sync software for Palm Pre and Palm's forthcoming Pixi?

Palm's iTunes workaround fight has gained a number of layers since Palm's conflict with Apple began earlier this year. In July, Apple shut down the ability of other devices that weren't Apple's to sync with iTunes. Palm had released the Pre phone a month earlier, and used workaround software to enable the phone's iTunes sync, but Apple's 8.2.1 update to iTunes shut that down, and disabled "devices falsely pretending to be iPods."

Thus began a series of Palm updates to its webOS to work around Apple's restrictions, followed by Apple updates to iTunes that put Palm back on the sidelines.

Palm complained about Apple's behavior to the USB Implementers Forum, arguing that Apple was violating USB-IF standards by using iTunes to block content transfer. The USB-IF's response, however, was to tell Palm it was in the wrong, with executive director Traci Donnell writing that "Palm's allegation (if true), does not establish that Apple is using its vendor ID contrary to USB-IF's policies" and ripping Palm for alleged use of another company's vendor ID.

Palm's bravado is easy to understand: It lists "DRM-free iTunes music, videos and photos" as a key feature of the Pre's media sync capabilities on its Web site. But even Palm offers a clunky qualification with the Media Sync comment with a footnote that it only works with some versions of iTunes. Wouldn't it be easier at this point for Palm to give up the fight and focus on its own software?