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Handhelds Media (Apple) Apple

USB-IF Slaps Palm In iTunes Spat 600

An anonymous reader writes "The USB Implementers Forum has finally responded to Palm's complaints that Apple is violating its USB-IF Membership Agreement by preventing the Pre from syncing with iTunes. It's found in favor of Apple. Worse, it's accused Palm itself of violating the Membership Agreement by using Apple's Vendor ID number to disguise the Pre as an Apple device."
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USB-IF Slaps Palm In iTunes Spat

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  • by digitalunity ( 19107 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {ytinulatigid}> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @08:42AM (#29514093) Homepage

    The outcome of the USB-IF wasn't made with legality or morality in mind. They made a judgment with member agreements in hand only.

    Morally, it's wrong of Apple to deny other media device manufacturers access to iTunes and ITMS. Legally, it's likely also wrong. The DMCA has an exemption for compatibility and the Pre would probably fall under that.

    Whether that violates agreements with USB-IF or not is immaterial. You don't need to be a USB-IF member to manufacture USB devices.

    If you support Palm, let them know how important the feature is. Be sure to also drop a response by these folks, the Board of Directors at USB-IF letting them know you support Palm's attempt for true compatibility.

    * Hewlett-Packard Company - Alan Berkema
    * Intel Corporation - Jeff Ravencraft
    * LSI Corporation - Dave Thompson
    * Microsoft Corporation - Fred Bhesania
    * NEC Corporation - Steve Roux
    * ST-Ericsson - Geert Knapen

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @08:51AM (#29514171)

    WebKit, Grand Central, Darwin Streaming Server, LaunchD (some Linux please pick this up...), Bonjour (Yes ZeroConf, but I think they're the first to make it popular), Even XQuartz so that OSS stuff that uses X11 can run under OS X looking like OS X. They even have a cute little website with the word 'forge' in it: []

      Hell they even have Darwin, the base of OS X. Lets see Microsoft release an OSS version of XP minus some GUI bits.

    Yes, Apple is protective of quite a bit of stuff. But they're released a ton more OSS that I've found than MS.

  • by kannibal_klown ( 531544 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @08:52AM (#29514185)

    I don't think either party was the hero in this battle, but Palm deserved what it got.

    Apple provides legitimate methods to connect a device to iTunes via a public API and/or Toolkit. This lets them support things easier by making sure the public API works after changes.

    I see it as less "anti-competitive business practice" and "we want to stop the ball rolling on companies tricking iTunes so support doesn't become a problem."

    Look at it this hypothetical scenario which is NOT the case here but goes to the overall problem.

    - Lets say ALL of the device companies out there decided to skip the API and do what Palm did: trick it.

    - Apple legitimately wants to change something on their end with the way iTunes interfaces with iPod/iPhone.
    Do something neat / tricky to add a feature or improve performance that they KNOW works on the iPod/iPhone.

    - But now they have to worry about breaking every other device out there because the hardware and capabilities are different.

    - So now you have to wonder "is this REALLY an iPhone?"

    * If only there was some way to know for sure which device this was?

    * Oh wait! THAT's what Vendor ID is for.


    This is the sole point of the public API and/or Toolkit. You state funcX() returns Y. Maybe one day you want to add funcZ() or replace funcX() with funcX21() . Maybe you eventually upgrade the API / Toolkit so the client code needs to be changed but it's on the other companies to stay current, not you supporting other companies' devices.

  • by mdwh2 ( 535323 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:01AM (#29514285) Journal

    Difference number 2: MS was hated by many geeks, and by geek sites such as Slashdot, or at least criticised for these actions. Apple on the other hand are loved, even by geeks, with these actions twisted around to be good things, and with sites given no end of free advertising and hype ("You can read this webpage On Your Iphone" as we once had, or witness yesterday's non-story of "Someone releases a second application for the Iphone"...)

    If Apple actually did become big - e.g., the hype around the Iphone becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and in 10 years time, mobile computer is dominated by a monopoly that completely locks down the platform, locks out competitors, and where Apple need to give permission for you to run a 3rd party application on the mobile computer you've bought - will this attitude changed?

  • If you step outside the MS ecosystem there are significant programs (games and important business software) you cannot run

    Step outside of Microsoft and lose games? I don't understand. There are plenty of games for PlayStation 2, PLAYSTATION 3, and Wii.

  • Re:Not surprising. (Score:2, Informative)

    by will-el ( 78139 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:19AM (#29514419)

    It's not so simple.

    IBM dominated the mainframe computer market in the 1970s (by making a superior product to Burroughs, Honeywell, etc.). However, they required their customers to buy IBM disk drives, IBM terminals, IBM printers, etc. This was ruled anti-competitive by the courts, and it was made legal for competitors to reverse engineer IBM's interfaces, spoofing as needed, in order to make "plug compatible" peripherals (and mainframes). The public benefited from the competition.

    Apple now dominates the music player market (by making a superior product to Archos, Sandisk, etc.). However, they want to tie the iTunes to the iPod-- this is anti-competitive. Palm is fully within it's rights to reverse engineer and spoof the interface in order to make a plug compatible peripheral -- and the public benefits.

  • by itsdapead ( 734413 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:37AM (#29514585)

    Apple: you want this shiny little music player? Huh? You want it? Huh? Well then you have to change everything you own to Apples version

    Reality check:

    • The only "lock in" with iPod/iTunes is if you choose to buy DRMd content from the iTunes store.
    • iTunes/iPod works fine with MP3 and unprotected AAC files from any source (video files, too) - legal or otherwise. It will rip your CDs to MP3 if you don't like AAC. The only things you have to get from the iTunes store are firmware updates and iPhone Apps.
    • iTunes stores all its music files as regular disk files. It will sort them into artist/album folders and number the files for you, if you choose. Copying files to a vanilla MP3 player that works like a USB drive is a cinch.
    • Although the main iTunes metadata file is a proprietary binary, iTunes maintains a mirror of all the metadata you are likely to need, including your playlists, as an XML file with a fairly obvious structure. Its easy to write scripts to parse this and sync playlists, generate m3u files etc. 3rd Party Applications like Missing Sync will let you choose iTunes playlists and sync them to your phone. Games such as Oolite will look for specific iTunes playlists and use them for in-game music.
    • Buy MP3s from Amazon and their download app happily stuffs them into your iTunes libfrary for you.
    • OS X has a "Sync Services" framework, with a published API, to let third parties sync contact and calendar data with their devices.
    • No, Linux isn't supported - pity but join the queue. Guess what: my HTC Hero Android phone doesn't fully support Mac* or Linux either.

    All Apple is refusing to do for Palm is let them integrate Pre into the main iTunes application. That would require Apple to publish and maintain a plug-in API for iTunes which would cost Apple money. Why should they?

    Well, maybe someday a court will decide that Apple have a dominant position in the media player market, and further deiced that the "openness" described above is not sufficient to satisfy anti-trust laws. Then, and only then, will Apple be obliged to help others compete with their products.

    Also bear in mind that what anti-trust regulators are really concerned about is using a dominant position in one market to strong arm your way into another. Apple has built the iPod/iTunes/iTMS tripod up from scratch, popularising the pocket MP3 player and virtually inventing the legal music download market, not by leveraging an existing monopoly. The only aspect that's even worth debating in that context is whether they're using iPod/iTunes/iTMS to strongarm their way in to the Phone market. Looks to me like the main reason for the iPhone's success is that previous smartphones (esp. WM) were pants - and if you think their harming the market ask yourself what the Palm Pre, Android or the various 3rd party WM skins would have looked like - or whether they would exist - without the iPhone shaking things up.

    (*I should qualify that: HTC provide a calendar/contacts sync application for windows only - same story with firmware updates. Android is fairly hardware-agnostic, provided you're happy to use Google for calendar/contacts).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:39AM (#29514621)

    They also own CUPS, which is probably one of the largest contributions next to WebKit.

  • by Karlt1 ( 231423 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:48AM (#29514713)

    And when they change the format on newer versions, to break compatibility with your application?

    (They've been doing these tricks since the BeOS days.)

    Any documentation that they have changed their XML file format since 2003 in a way that it broke compatibility...besides [i][b]It's a XML file[/b][/i] how much less obscure of a file format can you get?

  • by yumyum ( 168683 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:01AM (#29514907)
    Citation please. I've written apps in Python to use the iTunes XML file, and they have not broken after all of my iTunes upgrades. At least since iTunes 5. What Apple usually does is add to the format, stuff like smart lists or video. What one has to do is be defensive in coding so that you don't pick up stuff you don't want. My applications only work with audio files, so I filter out anything that is not an audio file. The XML parsing remains the same.
  • by jeremyp ( 130771 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:08AM (#29514987) Homepage Journal

    Does Apple have a 95% share of the portable music player market? I don't think so, a quick Google shows it to be between 70 and 80%. That's not a monopoly.

    Does Apple have a 95% share in the legal music download market? I doubt it. Again it looks like about 70%.

    Apple is not a monopoly, merely the dominant vendor.

  • Re:Legally required? (Score:3, Informative)

    by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:09AM (#29515001)

    BSD!=GPL. Learn the minor differences, all OSS is not the 'same'.

    With the BSD license you can do what ever the hell you want with the code. Including closing it and charging for it.

    BSD License []

    The BSD License allows proprietary use, and for the software released under the license to be incorporated into proprietary products. Works based on the material may be released under a proprietary license or as closed source software. This is the reason for widespread use of the BSD code in proprietary products, ranging from Juniper Networks routers to Mac OS X

  • Re:Think of Barcodes (Score:3, Informative)

    by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:28AM (#29515243)

    How can they stifle competitoon when APPLE PUBLISHES AN API THAT DOES EXACTY WHAT PALM WAS TRYING TO DO - all Palm had to do was look at that API and write a plugin. iTunes does sync with third party players - you just have to write a plugin.

    What's not ok is to think "well, we can't be bothered to write a plugin using Apple's published API, I know, we'll just change our vendor ID to tell iTunes we're an iPod and it will use the iPod plugin".

    Apple are not being anticompetitive here - iTunes does sync with third party devices, using a public API provided by Apple. Let me just be clear here since you don;t seem to understand what "anticompetitive means" - if Palm want to sync the Pre with iTunes, they can write a plugin for it.

  • Re:Think of Barcodes (Score:4, Informative)

    by jo_ham ( 604554 ) <joham999@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:31AM (#29515297)

    But Apple provides an API that does exactly what Palm wanted to do - sync the Pre with iTunes. All they had to do was look at this published API and write a plugin. Apple aren't trying to "force Palm out" via anticompetitive practices, they are just saying "if you want to sync with iTunes, stop spoofing our USB ID and write your own plugin using the published API for iTunes sync".

  • by jdgeorge ( 18767 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:05PM (#29516677)

    Why don't you pull your head out of your ass. Apple provides an API toallow iTunes to snyc to anything. All palm needed was a plugin. However palm broke their USB speecs, and legal agreements they lied to end users, iTunes and the USB-IF

    Instead of following the rules palm stole and lied to every pre owner and your too stupid to see that. Apple constantly changes things and yetstill have a better user Interface than msft who won't change their underwear.

    I'm impressed by this persuasive post full of pertinent facts and references, and I only have a few lingering questions:

    • How does one "snyc" with iTunes?
    • How much would a pair of USB "speecs" cost?
    • What did palm steal?
    • What were you describing as "your too stupid ..."?
    • Are the "yetstill" related in any way to the Sasquatch?
    • Didn't I just see a post [] suggesting that Apple's API has been stable for years and that the problem was that Palm wasn't actually using the API?
    • And how did you come by insight about how often a corporation like Microsoft might "change their underwear"?

    Thank you for your many thoughtful contributions to this discussion. :-)

  • by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:46PM (#29517371) Journal

    According to the summary, Palm is accused of using Apple's vendor ID. Your description seems to make a lot more sense.

    Yeah... when Apple made iTunes not sync anymore unless the device had the Apple vendor ID (in addition to the iPod device ID), it broke compatibility with the Pre. Palm thought that was a competition-stifling move and countered it by having the Pre report both the iPod device ID and the Apple vendor ID. That was the only thing preventing it from syncing, so it worked fine after they did that.

    Reporting the iPod device ID was fine, but using Apple's vendor ID was against the rules. Palm knew this, which is why this was in the news a while back too: they were trying to get the USB-IF to agree that Apple's behavior was unsportsmanlike, which would have (possibly) justified Palm's breaking the rules. Apparently the USB-IF didn't want to play along.

  • by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:08PM (#29517789) Journal

    Palm designed a broken (defined as broken by the USB spec) device, and purposely designed the Pre so it was impossible for their device to identify itself to the computer as a Pre.

    What the hell? Citation needed. Palm is welcome to use any device ID they want in order to identify their product. The only catch is, if it says "iPod", it damn well better act like one, or it's not going to work right.

    The vendor ID, which is totally different, still said "Palm". That is, a Palm device that acts like an iPod. Until iTunes started checking that, and saying "I don't care if you think you can be an iPod, you weren't made by Apple so I'm not speaking to you".

    Now it's impossible to tell, but only after Apple tried to stifle competition by making their software not sync with "iPod-compatible" devices unless they actually claimed to be made by Apple.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:41PM (#29518371)

    I wasn't aware that Apple is preventing Palm from writing their own sync software? Did I miss that in TFA?

    As much as the Apple haters might not want to acknowledge, the ability to sync with iTunes is fully open. Anyone with even a tiny bit of XML knowledge can write software to sync with iTunes. iTunes is not an OS. They never promised support for every mp3 player on the market. Palm broke the rules by using Apple's device ID. There is absolutely nothing preventing Palm from writing it's own sync software. You can find tons of Open Source software packages that do the same for Mac, PC, and Linux [] for that matter.

    There is also nothing preventing someone from using iTunes to purchase music. All it does is place it on your local PC. Any sync software can pick it up from there.

  • by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @05:42PM (#29522521)

    I certainly don't.

    I mean, how can they make it ANY easier? I plug in the Pre to a USB port, I copy over music files to any directory I want, I sync/unplug the Pre. Done! It doesn't require or need iTunes. Besides, iTunes doesn't run on Linux or BSD, but using usbstorage to copy over the files works on *EVERYTHING*. No cost, nothing to download, nothing to install, nothing to configure, no "end user license agreements", no Internet required, no registration, no spyware, no special accounts, no magic daemons running.

    Guess what? You can do the same thing for pictures and videos, too. It is simple, fast, easy.

    As a Pre user, I find the waste of time and energy on this iTunes compatibility thing frustrating when there are plenty of other, BETTER uses of Palm's development time and energy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 24, 2009 @02:31AM (#29525935)

    Damn you're an idiot.

    Parse the XML file Apple puts on the hard drive.
    Sync the music it describes to the Pre over USB using standard file system calls.

    Problem solved, completely open.

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"