Latest iTunes breaks Palm Pre compatibility

Palm Pre users who have upgraded to the latest version of iTunes can no longer sync with the software.

Palm Pre

In the latest skirmish in the war between Palm and Apple, the newest version of Apple iTunes is not compatible with the Palm Pre.

Version 9 of iTunes was announced on Wednesday night by Steve Jobs, and adds various new features to the widely-used software. Jobs failed to mention that the latest build of the software would prevent Palm Pre users from syncing their devices with iTunes.

Officially, the Palm Pre works with version 8.2 of iTunes, and users can synchronise music and podcasts between the Pre and iTunes as long as it isn't protected by DRM. The next version of the software, 8.2.1, was released a month and a half later, and Palm users found themselves unable to synchronise with iTunes.

At the time, Apple spokesperson Nat Kerris said the latest version "disables devices falsely pretending to be iPods, including the Palm Pre."

Responding to a question from IT PRO, a Palm spokesperson said: "Palm's media sync works with iTunes 8.2.1. If Apple chooses to disable media sync in iTunes, it will be a direct blow to their users who will be deprived of a seamless synchronization experience."

The spokesman also noted that Pre owners "have options", including staying with an older version of iTunes, copying music via USB, or using a third party application.

The last time an iTunes update broke the Pre's compatibility with the software, Palm took just eight days to produce an update to the Pre's WebOS operating system.

In a statement to IT PRO, Apple said: "As we've said before, newer versions of Apple's iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with unsupported digital media players."

Apple had no comment on whether it intended to take more definitive action to prevent the Pre connecting to iTunes, or what it felt the benefits of the closed system were.

Theoretically, iTunes is deliberately incapable of synchronising with non-Apple hardware. The Palm Pre gets around it by faking the hardware signature of an iPod.

Last month, Palm filed a complaint with the USB Implementer's forum, arguing that Apple was misusing the USB interface to prevent third-party hardware being used with iTunes.

The ball is now in Palm's court, and history suggests the Pre will receive an operating system update in the next month that restores the Pre's compatibility with iTunes. Whether users will tolerate being periodically locked out of iTunes, or whether both companies will be able to resist accelerating the conflict by heading to the courts, is unclear.

The Palm Pre is set to land in the UK before Christmas.

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