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Summary:

Users of Lexcycle’s terrific iPhone e-reader app Stanza (which was acquired by Amazon last year) are expressing their disappointment over a recent update that removes the ability to sync and share your book library over USB from the program. When pressed as to why exactly the […]

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Users of Lexcycle’s terrific iPhone e-reader app Stanza (which was acquired by Amazon last year) are expressing their disappointment over a recent update that removes the ability to sync and share your book library over USB from the program. When pressed as to why exactly the feature had been removed, Lexcycle responded that it was at the request of Apple.

Before I say anything else, it’s my duty to report that Apple is indeed acting within the scope of the agreement it has with developers in requesting the removal of this feature from apps. As of now, USB syncing is still a private API, which means developers shouldn’t technically be using it. To get around this, many have implemented the feature using the iPhone’s Digital Camera Image Management folder, but that also requires the use of private APIs.

Whether or not developers are violating the development agreement isn’t at issue here, though, really. Apple has quietly acquiesced to the use of USB syncing in many apps, not just Stanza, until now. The timing is not inauspicious. Apple’s only begun to enforce this rule following the unveiling of the iPad, and, more to the point, of the iBookstore.

Ars Technica believes this is only a temporary measure. They point to an alternative apparently in the works in iPhone 3.2:

Though users of Stanza, PDF readers, numerous audio editors and sequencers, and other apps will be frustrated, the good news is that Apple has a mechanism planned to address both syncing and file sharing issues. The beta SDK for iPhone OS 3.2 has APIs for accessing an on-device shared storage folder, which will be mounted as a readable and writable disk when plugged in to a computer via USB.

Ars then goes on to point out that iPhone OS 3.2 is currently only intended for use with the iPad. The same features could later appear in an update for the iPhone, but they may not. We could see an OS forking at this point, and that might mean a significant difference in the available features for each device.

Not to mention that there’s no guarantee the iPhone or the iPad will ever get the same kind of USB syncing functionality back. The iBookstore means that Apple has a monetary reason to prevent other content providers from getting its e-book products onto its devices. And in the meantime, while everyone waits for a potential future solution, Stanza users and others are left completely out in the cold.

The iPad represents many new possibilities for iPhone developers, but at what cost? Will Apple close its iPhone OS platform even further to ensure that it maintains the lion’s share of content control? Will it quietly hamstring legitimate competitors as it extends its power over the media users view on its devices? Not necessarily, but with the advent of a brand new device, we should watch closely to make sure we aren’t losing something irreplaceable in the bargain.

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  1. “The iBookstore means that Apple has a monetary reason to prevent other content providers from getting its e-book products onto its devices. And in the meantime, while everyone waits for a potential future solution, Stanza users and others are left completely out in the cold.”

    Whilst USB syncing is gone, users can still get content on to the device using WiFi. So Apple are *not* preventing any content from getting onto the device, and Stanza users aren’t “completely out in the cold.” Just use WiFi.

  2. Let’s continue making something out of nothing. An app was using functionality that it shouldn’t have been. Apple told them to stop. Just because “everyone is doing it” doesn’t make it right.

    This didn’t happen before it was revealed to developers that there is, in the works, a sanctioned method for accomplishing the same thing in a near future OS update. Which, by the way, you and I know only because somebody broke their NDA to reveal to us.

    Whether or not 3.2 will be iPad only or not is purely speculative seeing as it’s existence is under NDA as well.

  3. >>>The iBookstore means that Apple has a monetary reason to prevent other content providers from getting its e-book products onto its devices.

    Oh FFS. Apple has the same damned reason to stop music and video syncing too. Do they? No. This is nothing more than an API reign-in. That it happened to Stanza appeals to the tinfoil hat crowd. Puhleeze.

    http://ebooktest.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/how-to-build-an-epub-ebook-library-for-your-ipad/

  4. Let’s also remember that a) Apple has been asking developers to stop using the DCIM folder since at least November 2009, and b) DCIM should only be used for images and video.

  5. I use Stanza all the time and I have a few friends that use it too. None of us ever used USB syncing to sync our content. WiFi is much simpler and requires no cables.

    Like some of the previous commenters said, much ado about nothing here. No conspiracies, no big brothers, just move along, nothing to see here.

    That’s the downside of writing news for a company with so much secrecy. Most of the time people are writing about stuff that really doesn’t matter just because they have nothing else to write about (not their fault).

  6. I would be very surprised if this feature is not in 3.2 for the iPhone as well.

  7. The iPad May Be Perfect for Web Browsing, But It’d Really Rather You Didn’t Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    [...] Paul Sweeting, in the GigaOM Pro piece, contends that the reason the iPad poses such a threat to Google is that it rewrites the rules of content delivery, eliminating the avenues through which Google makes money via search and advertising. As I’ve written about elsewhere, Apple’s aim is clearly to control not only the content that appears on its devices, but also the conduits by which that content arrives. [...]

  8. The sky is falling Chicken Little!

  9. While representing a greater investment in time and effort, the developers can still provide a bonjour interface, which would allow users to connect to the “application service”. This would then be used as conduit for passing data, what ever it might be.

    This would, of course, require the developers to develop a client based app that users would need to use and require them to build for multiple different clients.

    How much do you depend on this style of service?

  10. The iPad May Be Perfect for Web Browsing, But It’d Really Rather You Didn’t « Tech News Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    [...] Paul Sweeting, in the GigaOM Pro piece, contends that the reason the iPad poses such a threat to Google is that it rewrites the rules of content delivery, eliminating the avenues through which Google makes money via search and advertising. As I’ve written about elsewhere, Apple’s aim is clearly to control not only the content that appears on its devices, but also the conduits by which that content arrives. [...]

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