Apple Throws Down Gauntlet – Disables iTunes Sync for Palm Pre and Other Smart Phones

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Can’t sync iTunes with your Palm Pre or other smart phone, when previously you could? Your Palm Pre isn’t broken – Apple has intentionally disabled the ability for non-iPod or iPhone phones to sync with iTunes in it’s newest version of iTunes, iTunes 8.2.1.

And make no mistake – this was intentional. Apple has said, of the move, that iTunes 8.2.1 “provides a number of important bug fixes,” and “It also disables devices falsely pretending to be iPods, including the Palm Pre.”

The new iTunes disables devices falsely pretending to be iPods, including the Palm Pre.

In other words, one of the biggest bugs that Apple felt needed squashing was the Palm Pre – widely considered one of the most likely contenders to topple the iPhone’s near strangle-hold as kingpin of the smart phones – and it’s ability to seamlessly sync wiwth iTunes. Or, put another way, when it comes to those “important bug fixes” in iTunes 8.2.1, it was the Palm Pre that was bugging them.


Adds Apple, “As we’ve said before, newer versions of Apple’s iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with unsupported digital media players.”

[Translation: If a serious competitor to the iPhone comes out, we’re no longer playing nice.]

Certainly, of course, this is their prerogative, and it’s really not a huge deal. Sure, it may be slightly more hassleful for Palm Pre users to get their music onto their Palm Pre, but, as Palm itself points out, in response to Apple’s snub:

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“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 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.”

While Palm is downplaying the impact this will have in the smart phone world, or at least Palm’s smart phone world, there is another arena in which this not only sends a message, but draws a line in the sand, and it may turn out to be a line that Apple will need to be prepared to back up in court.

Commentators and pundits have oft-decried what they perceive to be Apple’s near-monopoly in the online music download-and-store realm, and have long predicted that this could (and some would argue should) lead to an anti-trust case against Apple.

 

If you consider iTunes and the iTunes store to be the primary online music distribution platform, then by excluding all devices other than their own Apple-made devices from access to iTunes, Apple may have just handed the those foaming at the anti-trust mouth the entre they need to bring that case, because it does indeed then look very much like a monopoly, with Apple controlling not only the primary commodity, but the distribution access as well.

Of course, there are other points of online music distribution, such as Amazon MP3, so whether in fact Apple has a monopoly… well, a jury may be out on that in the future.

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