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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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  • Re:Think of Barcodes (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @08:39AM (#29514075)

    They are nothing like barcodes, which fulfil a sales role.

    The vendor ID is informational. It is designed just to let you know who the device was made by.

    To find out what the device can do, whence how to talk to it, you have USB device classes etc.

    Apple were incorrectly using the vendor ID in their the spirit of standards, Palm were making up for this. Apple's response was not to show contrition, but to further break the spirit of standards by using an undisclosed algorithm to detect whether a genuine iPod was being connected.

    Palm have done precisely what is correct when negotiation fails: to take peaceful direct action to solve an injustice.

    If Palm want to respond to this gaggle, I suggest one paragraph on the technical flaws of USB (focusing on all the things 1394 got right, before Apple abandoned that), another paragraph about how long it's taken to decide what a standard USB power supply is (incorporating some footnotes commenting on the extent to which the MacBook Air and iPods respect rules on power), with a final paragraph promising an explicit "non-compliance to uphold the spirit of standards" option on the handset, so the user can be clear whether he is operating in "pretend the handset has a USB forum logo" mode or not.

  • by Entrope ( 68843 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @08:51AM (#29514169) Homepage

    Palm was rather sleazy in trying to hijack Apple's software to do things that Apple doesn't want to support. On the other hand, I more than halfway expect Palm to now file an anti-trust complaint against Apple for abusive vertical integration on the basis that Apple has a practical monopoly in some of the areas here. It would be a somewhat weak claim -- there are other digital music stores, and other ways to synchronize music between devices, but Apple has a pretty commanding share of those markets plus the digital music player market. iTunes's nature as a loss leader seems like it could cut either for or against Apple.

  • by noundi ( 1044080 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @08:56AM (#29514215)

    That's completely retarded. DRM is out of the picture on iTunes store and if you insist on purchasing there, nothing keeps you from syncing your music library to whatever device you have.

    There was no requirement for Palm to highjack Apple's ID just so that they can benefit from cheap engineering. RIM made the right decision and that is to not rely on software they dont control for their syncing.

    What Palm did is sell a device to their customers and provided no guarantee as to the usability of the product, because they hack another company's software solution.

    Don't kid yourself, Apples intentions have never been to share anything with anyone. The way it is now is because people objected to the insane enviroment that Apple tried to push. Tell me how the user benefits from being forced to use iTunes with iPod for example? Isn't it merely just another way to screw the consumer over by exposing him to only one store, thus killing competition without providing anything better? I'm speaking from my own experiences, and I used to own an iPod mini, back in the days. There is nothing I regret more to have purchased in my entire life, and after having iTunes "synchronizing" my device (aka wiping it if it's plugged to another PC) numerous times I had enough. Instead I bought a sony player that acts as a removable disc. Sure, it's Apples every right to bundle the players with iTunes and it's my every right to tell people how it causes nothing but trouble. If iTunes was superior I would have chosen it. But yes, Palm was in it for a free ride and they had no right to do so, but that doesn't make Apple less consumer unfriendly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:00AM (#29514279)
    Yet Apple using SAMBA to pretend to be a Windows server is just SUPER!
  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:00AM (#29514283) Homepage

    If this were Internet Exploder that forced vendors to engage in shenanigans
    like this NO ONE would object to the shenanigan and EVERY Apple fanboy would
    be standing in line to heap the abuse onto Microsoft.

    The fact that the software allows interoperability with nothing more than
    a spoofed client ID just goes to show that Apple is creating an artificial
    compatability here that ties into their dominance in media players and
    online sales of downloadable media. If Google or Microsoft were doing the
    same thing, people would be calling for blood.

    It's a total double standard.

  • by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:03AM (#29514305)

    Apple legitimately wants to change something on their end

    Maybe that's the real issue. Apple changes their stuff far too often, and in far too fundamental ways.

    With Windows, I can try to figure out how to connect the machine to an LDAP server (for example), write a cheat sheet about it, and come back 3 years later on a new Windows machine, and my cheat sheet still applies.

    With Apple, stuff changes in a fundamental way not only between major versions (Tiger and Leopard) but also within the various releases of Leopard. What should be a simple routine operation (adding a new Mac to our network) becomes each time a whole new reverse-engineering project, because Apple can't keep their interfaces and GUIs stable.

  • Morality? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:17AM (#29514405)

    Morally, it's wrong of Apple to deny other media device manufacturers access to iTunes and ITMS.

    Morally? There's nothing immoral about it so far as I can see. With apologies to the authors on wikipedia [] I just don't see how morality comes into the picture here.

    1. descriptive usage, morality means a code of conduct or belief which is held to be authoritative in matters of right and wrong. Morals are arbitrarily created and subjectively defined by society, philosophy, religion, and/or individual conscience.
    2. normative and universal sense, morality refers to an ideal code of belief and conduct, one which would be espoused in preference to other alternatives by the sane "moral" person, under specified conditions.

    There is no authoritative code of conduct here other than our laws and the bylaws. You personally may feel they are behaving immorally but there are plenty who will disagree with you so your personal morals can't be argued in any sort of universal authoritative sense. You might make an open source style argument but you're on shaky ground there too. Neither ITMS nor iTunes is open source software. You know that up front. You also probably know that there are free (as in speech) and/or legal alternatives to both. If you don't like what Apple offers you don't have to use their software and services. Apple is not under any moral or legal obligation to cater to your every whim.

    There also is no ideal code of conduct here that we can all agree on. Apple worked hard to create their combination of products and services. Should they not reap the benefits, especially when it has no detrimental effect on you? You may not like Apple not letting it's competitors be free riders [] but I see nothing morally wrong with them preventing the competition from capitalizing on their work. ITunes is not some piece of public infrastructure and there is no compelling argument that it represents a market failure []. The entire reason we have copyrights and patents is precisely to advance the public interest in the face of the free rider problem. There is no compelling public interest to making iTunes or ITMS the equivalent of a common carrier at this time. Neither the software nor the service is a monopoly - both are merely popular in comparison to the alternatives available.

    Legally, it's likely also wrong.

    I suspect you are not a lawyer and you have provided no evidence whatsoever to back that assertion. I'm pretty aware of the issues involved and I cannot think of any reasonably legal argument whereby Apple is doing anything against the law. Happy to be proven wrong but I doubt you can prove me wrong.

  • by sarahbau ( 692647 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:22AM (#29514453)

    Think about what you just did: you posted on Slashdot.

    You used a web browser, which sent a few HTTP requests, represented as TCP/IP packets over an ethernet cable, which then traveled to an internet router, possibly via DSL or DOCSIS, got routed via OSPF and BGP, to a server running Apache and Perl.

    Every step of that journey involved one or more open, freely-available standards-based protocols that have been embraced by hundreds if not thousands of vendors so they could all communicate with each other. Without all those open protocols, you would be stuck on a Microsoft internet, or an Apple internet, or maybe even a boring conservative IBM internet, and they would all be walled gardens, completely blocked off from each other.

    You just made a good argument against what Palm did. With all these standards, if companies didn't follow them, there could be problems. Palm didn't follow USB standards and tricked iTunes into thinking it was an iPod. Not every protocol has to be an open standard. If Apple doesn't want to allow everyone to sync with iTunes, they don't have to. Also, openness does not benefit everyone. It benefits some, and could potentially benefit everyone, but doesn't always. When Apple allowed Mac clones to be made, most people thought it would bring Mac OS to a wider market and make Apple more money. Apple still made the OS, and even got licensing fees from the clone manufacturers. All it ended up doing was bite into Apple's revenue. Mac OS market share didn't grow, and Apple was just losing sales to the clones. Even if the average iPod user buys 100 songs over the life of the iPod, Apple still makes more money from the iPod sale than from the music. Why would they want to cut into their iPod sales just to potentially increase the money they get from the iTunes store?

  • by Dog-Cow ( 21281 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:23AM (#29514463)

    Why is it so fucking hard for you assholes to understand that Apple is NOT taking a legal stance on this issue?

    Apple doesn't want devices to lie. Palm wants to lie. This is fairly simple.

    It's so discouraging to see that it's OK to lie as long as your lying to a company that you don't like.

  • by Engeekneer ( 1564917 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:32AM (#29514527)

    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"...)

    I disagree a bit here. Among a good subset of geeks Apple is hated too. I am definately one of them, and wouldn't touch an Apple product to save my life. The difference is, Apple beats MS in user interface design and implementation, which is why it's probably hyped and loved by many. This of course doesn't change their horrible lock-in policies, and extreme secrecy, instead of openness, if they have a chance. So I dislike the company, and won't buy their products, even if the products themselves might be nice

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @09:42AM (#29514641) Journal
    I don't understand why you attach a moral dimension to this "lie". When designing a device to interoperate with another system, you make the device send and receive whatever signals the other system is expecting, both in physical and logical terms. If you want to interact with a system, you must operate in a manner similar to the device that the system is expecting to interact with.

    This has always been the case with interoperable systems. In this particular instance, one of the signals that iTunes expects is a USB vendor ID of 0x05AC. If you want to natively interoperate with iTunes, you have to emit that signal(aside from a few legacy players in the mac iTunes client from its pre Apple days). The fact that, in addition to being an expected signal, "USB vendor ID: 0x05AC" can also mean "Apple device" doesn't seem ethically relevant.

    Do you get upset when Opera "lies" about its browser ID in order to induce webservers to send it the same page that they would send IE?
  • Palm's agreements with USB-IF don't have squat to do with whether Apple is abusing monopoly power. One would be a civil case (or, more likely, mandatory arbitration) between Palm and the USB-IF licensing body. The other would be a criminal case -- United States v. Apple.

    It would be hard to bring an antitrust case against Apple for complying with a published industry standard that all major manufacturers use... except for Palm, who willfully violates the terms of their membership agreement and misuses the standard. Seriously - "Apple, we're charging you with antitrust violations for complying with a published standard that you didn't even write to operate with your free software, but locking out the one vendor who abuses the standard." Not gonna fly.

  • by nolife ( 233813 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @10:39AM (#29515397) Homepage Journal

    First much of iTunes as it exists today was developed by Apple once they bought the original software, so they are fully in their moral right to ONLY let their equipment use it

    Soooo... if MS went out of there way to actively prevent or to criple you from running Windows 3.1 on say Dr DOS instead of MS DOS, you would consider that morally and legally okay? MS thought the same thing back then as well.

  • by gpalyu ( 995482 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:14PM (#29516827)
    Apple did not gain their popularity with the iPod by anti-competitive practices and stifling innovation by buying up all the competitors like MS did with their OS'. For me that is the big difference. Apple got the lock down on MP3 players because we like theirs the best.
  • by gabebear ( 251933 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:17PM (#29516867) Homepage Journal

    For members. Can they prevent non-members from doing whatever they want? Not really... there's no legal authority for them to do so.

    The problem for Palm is that they were/are a member and now they can't claim any clean-room development. For example, It's likely that Palm used the sample drivers obtained by being a member to write their device drivers for the Palm(and other devices). If severing ties with the USB-IF means starting from scratch on new device drivers, then it could be very painful.

  • by Chabil Ha' ( 875116 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @12:51PM (#29517467)

    It would be rather trivial for Palm to write their own sync app that, through Apple's own published public APIs, could sync with an iTunes library through software. Palm just wants a free ride. Apple are well within their rights to stick it to them.

    iTunes SDK for Windows []

    Apple Script for OS X []

  • by david_thornley ( 598059 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @01:34PM (#29518239)

    Of the top of my head I cant even think of any other music store but itunes. This tells me that the average person is probably in the same place. giving them a virtual market over the music store.

    Okay, so Apple should face restrictions on what it can do because you're ignorant?

    I just typed "online music store" into Google. The first entry was Amazon's store. iTunes was near the bottom of the page. There were also entries for Napster and Rhapsody.

    Apple's got a large market share, but there is significant competition, and the barriers to entry aren't all that great.

    You're wrong on the loss leader aspect also. Apple makes money on iPods, rather than iTunes. For a company that prides itself on its software and interfaces and data supply, it's actually pretty bad at making money at it. Apple makes its money selling physical stuff.

  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @02:13PM (#29518939)

    That's not even the relevant market in this discussion. The relevant market would be online digital music sales. i.e iTunes Music Store.

    Unless you buy DRMed Fairplay, that is not a monopoly. DRMed Fairplay (unfortunately all DRMed music) might be legal monopolies. No case has ever been decided about that per se but the general consensus is that Apple can keep others from using Fairplay. Also Apple's agreement with the music companies might even require it. If you bought nonDRMed AAC from iTunes, you can play that on any player that is capable of playing AAC. That means the Sony PSP, the MS Zune, the Sansa etc.

    Also other competitors are free to create their own music stores. In fact other have. Most of them went bankrupt before and after iTunes existed. Amazon today sells MP3s and MS Zune Marketplace sells music online as well. Anyone is free to create a music store (as long as they have agreements with the music creators).

    Also you limited the argument to one mode of distribution. You can get music without ever going to an online store from both legal and illegal sources. I have bought some music online but most of my music was ripped from CDs. Some people use P2P to get their music illegally.

    False. MS was convicted of using their monopoly one one market to gain market share without competing in other, separate markets, notably: web browsers, media players, and server OS's. MS did settle numerous lawsuits with regard to illegally stifling competitors in their primary market and in office suites as well, but have not been convicted that I know of.

    My recollection is different than MS simply including a browser in their OS and trying to integrate it. I remember them threatening and strong-arming OEMs not to include Netscape as a browser on installs. They could include Netscape but their OEM prices would be affected. Also MS behavior was not limited to browsers. Intel wanted to develop a compiler for this new language called Java. MS hinted that they might favor AMD in any future Window development for x86 if they did.Sun licensed Java to MS with the written agreement that MS maintained compatibility with Sun standards. MS version of Java had 2 commands that were not in standard Java. Those kind of tactics were being exposed in the trial.

    Apple is potentially leveraging their influence in the online digital music sales market to gain a competitive advantage in the smartphone market. A comparison with MS, who used their desktop OS market to gain an unfair advantage in the web browser market, for example, is a pretty reasonable one in many ways.

    Wasn't the point of contention in your original argument about the music store and not the app store? Palm can't access iTunes software. However Palm could access nonDRMed music as well as iTunes metadata had (1) they written their own app or (2) written their own iTunes plugin (There is a public Apple API for this). Considering the amount of freeware plugins you can get for iTunes, it does not appear that to be a barrier for Palm to do. Some plugins even allow you to sync iTunes to another player.

    But about the app store: These application only run in OS X on the iPhone. Apple as no obligation to create an app store for a competitor. Nothing prevents their competitors from creating their own stores. They just can't use Apple's iTunes software to do it as point of integration.

    Had Apple acted like MS what they would be doing is threatening Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon, etc. not to do business with Palm. They would also be pressuing MS not to support Palm in Windows, trying to persuade Linux developers not to develop Palm software. That would be more akin to what MS did.

  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @03:41PM (#29520353)

    I wasn't aware MS was preventing Netscape from writing a browser for Windows. I must have missed that article too when MS was convicted.

    MS was convicted not because they bundled a browser. They were convicted by trying to strong-arm their OEMs not to deal with Netscape among other tactics. In this context, people are complaining that Apple is preventing Palm Pre users from syncing with iTunes. That's not what Apple is doing. Apple is preventing Palm from using the tactic of spoofing Vendor IDs as a means to sync with Palm Pres. If Palm wants users to sync with iTunes there exists an API to write a plugin. I don't understand why Palm doesn't do this at all. Certainly they can afford programmers to write one.

    Are you seeing why MS's antitrust abuse makes for a fairly reasonable comparison?

    To my viewpoint Apple has never tried to undermine the Palm Pre deliberately; they are merely enforcing rules on how to interface with iTunes. That's completely different.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @05:31PM (#29522347)

    The Sherman Act says actions meant to preserve market dominance are illegal when they destroy competition itself.

    No, it doesn't actually say that. Read the act [] and the subsequent legislation including the Clayton Act and the Robinson-Patman Act. Market dominance by definition means that you have destroyed competition. What anti-trust law guards against is elimination of competition to the detriment of consumers. That is a MUCH harder case to make.

    Apple isn't disabling the Pre's syncing because of worry about consumer, they do so because letting the Pre sync could damage their iPod sales. Despite a variety of alternatives, iPod's still command a healthy share of the mobile audio players market.

    Apple is in the business of selling hardware - iPods and more importantly iPhones. So is Palm in the business of making and selling phones but NOT MP3 players. Apple has created software and a download service that helps create a market for their devices. These services have been quite successful. Palm has (to my knowledge) not created their own iTunes equivalent but instead has chosen to free ride on Apple's investment, knowing they will sell phones at Apple's expense. People who buy a Pre are probably not going to buy an iPhone as well. So what reasonably argument can we make that Apple should be supportive of this? I certainly can't think of one.

    A case also could be made that Apple's disabling the Pre's ability to sync as a native iPod is illegal product tying - i.e. requiring the purchase of one product to complete purchase or use of another.

    Tying is not generally held to be illegal unless there is no relationship between the goods offered for sale or some sort of price discrimination. There is no compelling argument for tying here because each part of the service is independent (you don't HAVE to use iTunes or ITMS with an iPod).

    An MP3 player by itself isn't especially useful without software to load the files on to the device but you don't have to use Apple's software to do it. ITunes is merely one of many ways to manage a music library and interface with an MP3 player. Even iPods don't require iTunes to work nor does iTunes require an iPod to be useful - you can play music from iTunes without even owning an iPod. Furthermore iTunes is free so no one is required to pay anything to use it.

    ITMS is a service and the product it provides (MP3 files) can be obtained easily elsewhere for similar if not lesser cost.

    Morally? Doesn't it seem a bit greedy of Apple to stop the Pre from syncing just because Palm wanted to make life easier for users and making it a PITA to use a Pre might get some people to buy iPods?

    Palm isn't selling MP3 players. Palm sells phones. Palm is trying to be a free rider [] on the work of Apple. Apple is in the business of selling handsets like Palm. If someone buys a handset from Palm they don't buy one from Apple. It's a zero sum game. Why should Apple pay to support Palm when it is perfectly legal for Palm to set up their own version of iTunes and ITMS?

    However, none have the breadth that ITMS has as far as selection. It's much like how WalMart isn't a monopoly because other companies sell lots of the same stuff-they just happen to be hundreds of times bigger than your average supermarket chain

    That's a fairly good analogy and illustrative. Apple is for the moment the 800lb gorilla in the MP3 music market. Like Walmart however they are no where close to being a monopoly. Dominant? Yes. Influential? Certainly. Monopoly? Nope. A monopoly that is detrimental to consumers? No way. Sorry but you haven't convince me that Apple's actions are in any way illegal.

  • by Maserati ( 8679 ) on Wednesday September 23, 2009 @05:55PM (#29522705) Homepage Journal

    At the very least Palm would need to strip all the USB logos from all of their products.

    That's probably all they can do, actually.

    And it would be a real pain in the ass for Palm to do. They'd have to re-design their packaging and promotional materials to get rid of the USB logo, they may even need to edit the copy to remove some references to USB compatibility. This costs money and takes time. Then they have to recall all their product in the sales channel and all the promotional material. This costs Palm more time and money and it also costs time and money for their channel partners.

    You think Sprint is going to be happy to round up and ship out all the Pre boxes, flyers, endcaps, and other materials in every single on of their retail locations and warehouses ? No they will not, they'll probably send Palm a bill for it.

    How about Verizon or any other carrier working on bringing Palm WebOS devices to market ? They have to stop, destroy or return materials and make new versions of *everything* Palm related. If there's a "will be available" clause in the contracts, the new carriers might be in a position to re-negotiate and get a better deal for themselves.

    Worse even than damaging the relationship with the cell carriers who are essential to Palm's survival is the period of time in which the Pre (or Pixie or whatever else is coming) is simply unavailable to buy. Let's start with the fact that some people will simply delay replacing a Treo for a while, but people simply shopping for "a smartphone" will buy something else; be honest now, who here would think "we'll buy something next month, Palm is just doing a minor product recall".

    Let's say it takes a month to repackage everything without the USB logo. That's a whole month with *no* revenue from WebOS devices. US$0.00. That probably won't put Palm out of business by itself, but it will hurt. Businesses NEED to make payroll, they need to pay their bills (every line item for "late fee" is money they just pissed away) and missing loan payments not only adds late fees but can make it harder or more expensive to obtain credit. And the stock price is usually not directly tied to line-of-business operations, but missing a month's revenue and thereby a quarterly earnings estimate will hit a lot of people in the pocketbook.

    Prediction: Palm will cave, they're in too precarious a position to take on the huge load of shit removing the USB logo from their packaging would be.

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!