Apple Obliquely Warns Palm Over “Unsupported” Media Players

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As the handheld world waits on iPhone OS 3.0, Apple may be planning a pre-emptive strike on “unsupported third-party digital media players.” A new technical note in the support knowledgebase certainly seems to imply that.

Without mentioning any names, Apple warns that, regarding iTunes integration, the company “does not provide support for” other hardware, and that “newer versions of Apple’s iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with non-Apple digital media players.” Of course, we all know this is about the Palm Pre.

When the Pre was launched, Palm was happy to demonstrate it syncing with iTunes. Jon Lech Johansen first described the likely process through which this was done.

  • When you select “Media Sync” on the Pre, it will switch its USB interface to use Apple’s Vendor Id and the Product Id for a specific iPod model
  • The Pre exposes a filesystem through Mass Storage Class that mimics the structure of an iPod
  • The Pre responds to Apple’s custom USB command and returns XML info about the device

In other words, it’s a hack, which explains why Palm was careful to say that the “feature” was only compatible with iTunes 8.1.1 on Windows XP/Vista and Mac OS X version 10.3.9-10.5.7. Now, Palm is saying something else, as John Paczkowski at Digital Daily reports the company’s response.

If Apple chooses to disable media sync in a future version of iTunes, it will be a direct blow to their 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 could consider.

It’s likely only a matter of time until Apple breaks syncing between the Pre and iTunes, and Palm’s response seems to indicate the company will not attempt another workaround. The saga will likely end here, unless Palm investor Roger McNamee has something to say, and he always does.

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