How Palm Re-Enabled iTunes Sync (The Plot Thickens) | webOS Nation

How Palm Re-Enabled iTunes Sync (The Plot Thickens)

by Dieter Bohn Fri, 24 Jul 2009 3:21 pm EDT

So the big question: How did Palm re-enable iTunes sync? The answer, so far as we can tell, is to go even deeper in their efforts to make the Pre look like an iPod. I just plugged my 1.1 Pre into my Mac in Media Sync mode and sure enough, it's identifying itself with an Apple USB Vendor ID:

Product ID:    0x8002
Vendor ID:    0x05ac  (Apple Inc.)
Version:    0.16
Manufacturer:    Palm Inc.

Jeffgus in our forums confirms the same: The Pre is now telling your computer that the vendor who made it is Apple. The change here is that with previous versions of webOS, the Vendor ID was "0x0830  (Palm Inc.)."  So while previously the Pre identified itself as a "mass storage device" called an iPod, now it's identifying itself as a "mass storage device manufactured by Apple" called an iPod. 

The plot has thickened, though - read on to see more about Palm calling foul to the USB authorities.

Tricky tricky, maybe too tricky? When you apply for a USB Vendor ID, you sign a form (PDF link) that explicitly states that:

Unauthorized use of assigned or unassigned USB Vendor ID Numbers and associated Product ID Numbers are strictly prohibited.

Ok, it appears that Palm's doing something possibly nefarious, but the plot, it has thickened like Hamburger Helper sauce that you have let sit in the fridge. In a quote given to All Things D, Palm spokesperson Lynn Fox seems to be raising the stakes on this Palm Pre / iTunes compatibility battle:

Palm has released webOS 1.1, which, along with offering more robust EAS support for business users, re-enables Palm media sync,” said company spokesperson Lynn Fox. “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, so on behalf of consumers, we have notified the USB Implementers Forum [USB-IF] of what we believe is improper use of the Vendor ID number by another member.

When Apple updated iTunes to 8.2.1 and blocked the Pre, presumably they did so by telling iTunes to block out any Vendor IDs besides Apple's. (We'll note that the root USB Node as identified by IOUSBDevice is still "Pre," so we could see another round of this stuff.  Thanks to DVD Jon for the info on that one)

We'll set aside the cognitive dissonance of Palm playing games with one USB-IF standard while complaining about another one for the moment, just so we can ask: what is the nature of their notification to the USB- IF?

We can make a guess: USB being a relatively open (albeit opt-in) 'standard,' either Palm thinks it's improper for iTunes to only allow connectivity with certain Vendor IDs.  Since they feel they're in the right there, I guess they don't mind wading into the gray area of spoofing another company's USB Vendor ID.  Gizmodo surmises the same.

Either way, the notification to the USB-IF seem to be as gusty a move as re-enabling iTunes sync in the first place. We haven't seen a patent war erupt between Palm and Apple (yet), but this iTunes / USB ID mess is a perfectly good stand-in. As Giz notes, however, the idea of the USB-IF pulling "USB Compliant" stickers from boxes feels like fairly low stakes.

Anybody have some popcorn?