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Why Palm Wants To Play Chicken

Oct 4 2009, 1:34pm CDT | by , in News | Mobile Phones

Why Palm Wants To Play Chicken
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So, Palm's re-enabled iTunes syncing after all. This marks the second time that Palm has fixed syncing since the release of the Pre. Now the ball is in Apple's court as we wait to see if they will respond with another patch, or a barrage of legal threats.

Apple is a huge company with virtually unlimited cash reserves, a fanatically loyal fan base, and a cadre of the best lawyers in the world. Palm, on the other hand, has been ailing for several years. The Pre hasn't sold nearly well enough to bring them back to where they were during their PDA heyday. The conflict between these two companies could almost be a modern day David and Goliath story, that's certainly how Palm wants the world to see it.

Back when the controversy over syncing first reared its head, Palm made this statement (PreCentral) to defend their actions; “Palm believes that openness and interoperability offer better experiences for users by allowing them the freedom to use the content they own without interference across devices and services.."

See? It's all about the customers. Mean old Apple wants to restrict their users from loading iTunes music onto any non-Apple device. That's not fair! Thank goodness those brave men at Palm are here to thumb their nose at Steve Jobs' evil empire and let us choose how we want to store the content we pay for.

While the struggle between Palm and Apple may seem like a David and Goliath type showdown, it really isn't. Not unless David started the fight by sneaking into Goliath's tent, punching him in the nose, and stealing one of his Oxen.

On his blog, Craig Hunter did a beautiful job dissecting this whole situation. He found that, contrary to what Palm claims, Apple long ago provided manufacturers with a way to legally sync up with iTunes, free of charge. All Palm would have had to do was use the iTunes music library XML file stored on the customer's computer to create a sync utility for the Pre. That's what BlackBerry's media sync does, and Apple has never yelled at them for it.

If Palm wanted to allow users to sync their iTunes library up to the Pre, they had a perfectly legal method to do it. Palm chose not to take that route. They wanted a big, public confrontation with Apple. But why?

Because it keeps the Pre in the news. Palm wants as much publicity for their new smartphone as they can possibly get, and the best way to do that is to create controversy around it. Every time they re-enable syncing, Palm makes the Pre an even bigger story. Most people who hear about the iTunes syncing drama aren't going to read into it to find out who the real bad guy is. They'll read enough to know that a smaller company is sticking it to a big corporate giant. Palm gets free press, at the relatively low expense of fixing their sync capabilities every few weeks.

Apple has three choices they can make right now. They can break syncing again and wait for the endless waltz to continue once more, they can sue the crap out of Palm, or they can do nothing. The first option will give Palm the attention they crave, and won't help Apple one jot. The second option will stop Palm, but it'll make Apple look bad and could hurt their sales. The third option, leaving sync in place and ignoring Palm, might be the best choice Apple can make right now.

If Apple stops responding to Palm at all, then the Pre loses a huge source of publicity. No more articles will appear talking about Pre syncing, or arguing about which company is in the right. It's not a perfect solution for Apple, but it might be the best way to dissuade Palm from doing something like this again. Sometimes the best way to beat a bully is to ignore them.

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