Palm files a complaint with the USB Implementers Forum over Apple's blocking of iTunes on its Pre smartphone, claiming Apple is "hampering competition."
Smartphone maker Palm has filed a complaint with the USB
Implementers Forum, a nonprofit corporation founded by the group of companies
that developed the Universal Serial Bus specification, charging that Apple is
infringing on its trade by not allowing the company's smartphone, the Pre, to
connect to Apple's popular iTunes application.
The New York Times reported
on Tuesday that Palm filed the
complaint, which argues Apple is "hampering competition" by locking the Pre,
which tricks iTunes into believing it is connected to an iPod instead. In a
letter obtained by the Times to the USB
Implementers Forum, Palm Senior Director of Product Technologies Kevin
Morishige charges Apple is using its USB
vendor ID as a lockout code.
"Over the years, those that have implemented the USB
standard have clearly benefited from the interoperability and competition among
devices fostered by the standard," he wrote. "For example, the explosive growth
of the market for Apple iPods and iPhones has been attributed in significant
part to Apple's decision to implement the USB
standard for these products, rendering them compatible with PCs as well as
Morishige said by opting to use its USB
vendor ID number to limit access to iTunes, Apple is in effect turning the ID
into a lockout code. "This exclusionary use is not contemplated by the USB
standard, which is clearly intended to facilitate interoperability between USB
devices, not to regulate the content that flows between them," he wrote.
"Moreover, it is inconsistent with the letter and the spirit of the USB-IF
Membership Agreement, including the Antitrust Guidelines."
Mike Abramsky, an analyst with investment firm RBC
Capital Markets, told the New York Times there isn't much precedent for this
type of case, so predicting an outcome will be difficult. "It's breaking new
ground," he said. "In my mind, ultimately the users are the arbiters in the
outcome of these situations."
The cat-and-mouse game between Palm and Apple took another turn last week
, when Palm updated the
operating system for the Pre. Palm webOS 1.1, which the company hopes will make
the Palm Pre smartphone more appealing to businesses, was widely seen as an
excuse for the company to reconnect Pre users to Version 8.2.1 of Apple's
iTunes application. In May, early tests of the Palm Pre made it known that
Palm's upcoming Pre WebOS will include an application called Palm Media Sync,
which will synchronize with iTunes and allow users to transfer DRM-free music,
photos and video onto the Pre.
On July 15, Apple updated iTunes, and the newest version prevented the Palm
Pre from syncing with Apple's proprietary music app. Months before, during a
Jan. 21 earnings call, Apple COO Tim Cook,
declining to name Palm specifically, said, "We will not stand for having our IP
ripped off, and we'll use whatever weapons that we have at our disposal."