Palm Restores iTunes to Pre

Palm this weekend re-enabled synchronization through Apple's iTunes for owners of its Pre smartphone, ignoring warnings from a standards group last month.

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The release of webOS 1.2.1 Saturday was the latest in the back-and-forth between Palm, which kicked off the iTunes sync last June with the launch of the Pre, and Apple, which has blocked the practice several times with iTunes updates.

"This release also re-enables the ability of Palm media sync to work with the current version of iTunes," Jon Zilber, Palm's director of online communications, said in a post to a company blog .

According to webOS 1.2.1's release notes , Palm also added photo synchronization via iTunes for the Pre, upping the ante in its tug-of-war with Apple.

Apple shipped iTunes 9.0 in early September, and updated it on Sept. 22 to version 9.0.1. Palm's webOS 1.2.1 works with the most recent edition of Apple's media software.

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Palm tricks iTunes into "seeing" the Pre as an Apple iPod by using device and product numbers reserved for Apple's hardware. That, however, has reportedly drawn a rebuke from the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF), a non-profit company founded by the companies which developed the USB specifications. Both Palm and Apple are members of the USB-IF.

Two weeks ago, the USB-IF sided with Apple in the dispute, and in a letter castigated Palm for abusing the group's rules. "Under the Policy, Palm may only use the single Vendor ID issued to Palm for Palm's usage," the USB-IF told Palm, according to the Digital Daily blog, which had obtained a copy of the letter. "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."

At the time, the USB-IF declined to confirm Digital Daily's account. "The USB-IF has been contacted by its members Palm Inc. and Apple Inc. regarding the use of USB-IF Vendor IDs and the Vendor ID policy," said Traci Donnell, USB-IF's executive director, in an e-mail to Computerworld on Sept. 23. "Yesterday, the USB-IF communicated its position on the matter to both companies. The USB-IF does not intend to comment publicly on this matter at this time."

Neither Apple or Palm replied to requests for comments two weeks ago.

The spat between the two firms started in June, when Palm started selling the Pre, and told users they could use Apple's iTunes to sync their music collection on Macs or PCs to their Pre smartphones. The following week, Apple threatened to throw a "kill switch" on the Pre synchronization. It did just that in mid-July with iTunes 8.2.1. Palm got iTunes synchronization working again a week later with the webOS 1.1.0 update, which Apple again broke with iTunes 9.0.

Apple's reaction to webOS 1.2.1 was to again threaten to disable iTunes. "As we've said before, newer versions of Apple's iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with unsupported digital media players," said company spokesman Tom Neumayr.

The USB-IF did not respond Saturday to questions about the group's next move, if any, against Palm.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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