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Palm Pre Once Again Works With iTunes

First Posted: 08/24/09 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 02:45 PM ET

Apple Palm Pre

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Palm's Pre smart phone just can't stay away from Apple's iTunes software.

Palm Inc. says the Pre can again connect to iTunes -- only a week after Apple Inc. shut it out. A software update delivered automatically to the phones re-enables the transfer of music, photos and video from iTunes to Pres, according to a Palm blog post made late Thursday.

The question now is how long the function will remain before Apple stamps it out again.

The $200 Pre launched in early June as a competitor to Apple Inc.'s iPhone, and became the first non-Apple device that could connect directly to iTunes. Apple crippled that function with an iTunes update last week, saying Pres were "falsely pretending to be iPods."

Palm's latest workaround is similar to the original trick it performed. When a Pre is connected to a computer through a USB port, the device gives out a hardware vendor code that Apple has been assigned by an industry standards group, the USB Implementers Forum. ITunes then recognizes the Pre as an Apple device and allows users to transfer content to it.

Palm spokeswoman Lynn Fox said her company thinks Apple is improperly using its USB vendor code. She would not elaborate, but presumably Palm believes Apple should not be allowed to set iTunes to respond only to devices with Apple's USB codes.

The USB group's rules, however, appear to not be in Palm's favor. They state that a "vendor ID used by a product must match the (ID code) of the company producing the product." Fox said Palm has notified the group of its steps to make the Pre work with iTunes.

The USB Implementers Forum had no comment.

In any case, Apple does not appear likely to let the latest incursion stand.

"As we've said before, newer versions of Apple's iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with unsupported digital media players," said spokesman Tom Neumayr.

The iTunes battle is part of a larger rivalry developing between Apple and Palm, whose chairman and CEO, Jon Rubinstein, once was an executive at Apple and oversaw the iPod. The Pre includes a "multi-touch" screen like Apple's iPhone, which lets users do things like pinch the display to zoom in and out.

Tim Bajarin, a technology analyst for Creative Strategies, is not surprised that Palm came up with a way to reconnect the Pre with iTunes. He expects the technology equivalent of a game of whack-a-mole to continue for a while, because he doesn't envision Apple giving in to Palm.

Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu doesn't think Palm's compatibility fix was the right way to go, saying that "hacking someone else's software, especially if you're a publicly traded company, doesn't seem that professional." He thinks Palm should come up with its own iTunes-like software instead.

"They can call it PalmTunes or something," he said.

Carl Zulauf, a Pre owner in Omaha, Neb., said the iTunes feature isn't that important, but he doesn't like Apple's attempt to disable it.

"It seems like Apple's gone out of their way to make their product as incompatible with competitors' as possible," he said.

AP Technology Writer Peter Svensson in New York contributed to this report.

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Filed by Ryan McCarthy  |