The gadget-based brinksmanship escalated this week, as Palm re-enabled iTunes syncing on the Pre. I'm sure most of us thought that Palm would bow after Apple broke syncing with their update last week. Palm's decision to release this patch seems a little like a declaration of war at first glance. But is it really?
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It's obvious that Apple doesn't want the Pre, or any other non-Apple device, to be able to sync up with iTunes. The first patch that disabled syncing was a warning. They wanted to shoo Palm off, but they didn't want the stigma of levying a big legal threat to hang over them. Apple released the patch, broke syncing, and put this statement up on their website.
"Apple designs the hardware and software to provide seamless integration of the iPhone and iPod with iTunes, the iTunes Store, and tens of thousands of apps on the App Store. Apple is aware that some third-parties claim that their digital media players are able to sync with Apple software. However, Apple does not provide support for, or test for compatibility with, non-Apple digital media players."
That statement was very clearly not a threat. Apple just said that they wouldn't worry about supporting any non-Apple products that try to sync with Apple software. Palm took that as an invitation to fix syncing themselves. After all, Apple didn't say not to do it.
“Oh, and one more thing: Palm webOS 1.1 re-enables Palm media sync. That’s right -- you once again can have seamless access to your music, photos and videos from the current version of iTunes (8.2.1).”
As this cheeky little quote shows, Palm isn't afraid to openly admit what they're doing. This puts Apple into a very unpleasant situation. If they start flinging lawsuits at Palm and bringing the wrath of their lawyers down on the tinier company, they look like Microsoft. Apple doesn't want to be the bad guy, but they clearly don't want the Pre (and all subsequent Palm devices) to be able to use iPhone either.
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More than likely, they'll break syncing again with an upcoming patch and make a more direct statement to Palm. If the smaller manufacturer persists, then Apple will have a very tough choice to make. It's all dependent upon how far Palm wants to push them. Whatever happens, the next couple of weeks are going to be very interesting.