Apple Gets Nod To Block Pre

The USB Implementers Forum said Palm spoofing its vendor ID to appear as an Apple product violates the group's policies.

Marin Perez, Contributor

September 23, 2009

2 Min Read

The USB Implementers Forum said Apple can block rival Palm from using its iTunes music service to manage content on the Pre smartphone.

When Palm released the Pre earlier this year, one of the appealing features was the ability to use iTunes to manage and sync non-protected multimedia files. Many smartphones and devices can do this through dedicated software, but the Pre essentially spoofs its USB vendor ID to make iTunes think it's an iPod.

Apple quickly blocked this ability with an iTunes update, but Palm restored the capability about a week later with an over-the-air firmware update. This was followed by Apple again removing this compatibility with iTunes 9, and Palm complaining to the USB governing board claiming Apple was restricting trade.

The USB governing body issued letters to both companies which said further usage of Palm's method of syncing would violate the group's policies. The USB group said Palm should only use its own issued vendor ID with its products.

"We engaged with the USB-IF because we believe consumers should have freedom and choice in how and where they use the non-rights managed media they already own," a Palm spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement. "We are reviewing the letter from the USB-IF and will respond as appropriate."

The iTunes ecosystem has been a major reason why Apple's iPod has been dominant in the personal media space. The main advantage is making Apple's hardware more appealing, as many industry watchers believe selling digital music doesn't generate much revenue due to royalties to the music industry.

The Pre doesn't appear to be doing much damage to the iPhone lineup, as Palm said it sold more than 800,000 total smartphones in the last quarter. By contrast, Apple's iPhone 3GS sold 1 million units during its opening weekend, although it was available in more markets that Palm's smartphone.

Most companies are just starting the hard work of mobilizing workforces by bringing the software they use to smartphones. InformationWeek analyzed this issue in an independent report, and it can be downloaded here (registration required).

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