Palm Pre users found their ability to sync with iTunes denied yet again on Oct. 29, thanks to Apple‘s iTunes 9.0.2 update. While that update was otherwise fairly routine-offering a handful of other features, including support for Apple TV 3.0-the denial-of-sync represents the latest twist in the ongoing tussle between Apple and Palm in the smartphone arena.
Palm’s webOS 1.2.1 update, released in early October, allowed Palm Pre users to sync fully with both Microsoft Exchange 2007 and iTunes. Since the Pre’s release on June 6, Palm and Apple have been playing a high-profile game of gotcha over the latter’s software: Every time Apple updates iTunes to break Palm’s syncing ability, it seems, Palm develops a workaround.
Syncing with iTunes was a feature originally used by Palm CEO Jon Rubinstein, who helped develop the iPod as an Apple executive, to promote the Palm Pre ahead of its summer rollout. “We designed Palm Media Sync to be an easy and elegant way for you to take the content you own and put it on the Pre,” he explained in a May 28 press release.
But Apple refused to accept another device accessing its software. Perhaps anticipating that Palm would try to add to its device’s features at Apple’s expense, Apple COO Tim Cook said during a Jan. 21 earnings call that his company “will not stand for having our IP [intellectual property] ripped off, and we’ll use whatever weapons we have at our disposal.”
Thus far, those weapons include Apple engineers tweaking iTunes every couple of weeks to deny outside sync. For Palm, the question becomes whether its newest smartphone, the Palm Pixi, will include an updated syncing ability. While the Pre was intended to appeal to both business and general markets, the Pixi is more firmly aimed at consumers, with integrated services such as Facebook.
Despite early buzz that the Palm Pre could prove to be an iPhone killer, the smartphone has proved to be a moderately successful but not game-changing smartphone. For the fiscal first quarter, Palm reported that it had shipped some 823,000 devices, without breaking down how many of those were the Palm Pre.
Equipped with a 2-megapixel camera, optional limited-edition back covers designed by artists such as Jeremy Fish and Michelle White, and a multitouch screen combined with a full QWERTY keyboard, the Pixi represents Palm’s next attempt at conquering the smartphone market. Despite all those features, however, Apple’s repeated iTunes-syncing slap-downs could mean that users of both the Pixi and Pre will need to either use an older version of iTunes, an alternative music player or a USB cable in order to port their music onto their device.