When Palm launched its new pre smartphone earlier this month, one of the phone’s many advertised features is its ability to sync media with Apple’s iTunes software. That’s right: when you pop a pre onto a computer, iTunes seems to magically see (and treat) it like an iPod music player, enabling users to sync music, podcasts, video, and more to the device as if it were one of Apple’s own. The feature raised eyebrows in the technical community, prompting speculation that perhaps former Apple employees (now at Palm) had used proprietary information to set up the syncing capability, or if Palm had independently devised its own clever workaround.
The speculation seems to favor Palm having legitimately reverse-engineered their iTunes synching solution; however, the good times may not last. Apple isn’t actually naming names and saying it’s going to shut down the Palm pre’s ability to sync with iTunes, but the company has published a support note about syncing third-party media players with iTunes, noting Apple does not test with third-party devices and synching functionality could break at any time.
It wouldn’t be the first time Apple has deliberately changed its software to lock third parties out of its iTunes/iPod universe: back in 2004, Apple and Real Networks were engaged in a battle of one-upsmanship over Harmony, software that enabled users to transfer protected music to any digital music player—including iPods. Apple accused RealNetworks of using the "tactics and ethics of a hacker." Apple has also repeatedly warned users of jailbroken iPhones that future software updates may render their phones inoperable.
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