On many issues, I’m an Apple fanboy. On the issue of the iPhone, less and less.
Here’s the short version of the story: Apple produces iTunes, which manages all of your music and videos, and syncs them to your iPod/iPhone. Very cool software, magnificently built, great experience overall. I’ve been using this setup for 6+ years.
Along comes Palm with the Pre, a phone with functionality similar to the iPhone. Obviously, Palm wants to let its users sync their music and photo library with the Pre. Seems fair, right? Here’s how the story unfolds:
iTunes 8.0: I will only sync with devices called ‘iPod’
Pre 1.0: Hmmm, ok I’m an iPod! sold by Palm and manufactured by Palm
iTunes 8.1: Oh I see how you want to play it, I will only sync with devices sold by Apple
Pre 1.1: OK, then I’m an iPod sold by Apple, but manufactured by Palm
iTunes 9.0: dammit, two can play that game, I will only sync with devices manufactured by Apple!
Pre 1.2: OK, I’m an iPod, sold by Apple and manufactured by Apple
Whatever hype and capital Palm built up around the launch of the Pre has been squandered on a pointless and trivial cat and mouse game with Apple over iTunes sync. The saddest part is that this was totally unnecessary, though Palm wants you to think otherwise.
You see, Palm doesn’t need the iTunes app to sync the Pre. They don’t need to draw Apple’s ire, or play yo-yo with their customers over this important capability. They can sync the Pre to a customer’s iTunes music library with a public, open, and documented approach that has been used by third-party developers and device makers for years. This capability was created by none other than Apple itself.
Funny that Palm is the only one blamed in this cat-and-mouse game. Why is okay for Apple to purposely reduce user functionality for no other reason than to stick it to Palm? At least Palm is trying to provide features to its users!
Also, if you’re going to start picking apart Palm’s design, then maybe it’s time to send the coding police after Apple, too: why not sync with any device that offers itself up as meeting the iPod API? Why force Blackberry and others to build their own sync apps? Maybe it’s okay for Apple not to go out of its way to help Palm, but then why actively spend resources shutting them out repeatedly? Do Gruber and Hunter actually believe that this is meant to protect users?
I’m 99% sure I know what’s going on. And Gruber and Hunter probably do, too. Blackberry syncing works great for non-DRM’ed songs, but read the fine print:
Certain music files may not be supported by the media player, including incompatible file types and files that contain digital rights management technologies.
There is no way for the Palm Pre to provide the full feature set that its users are entitled to without acting like an iPod, because Apple specifically built their system to prevent synchronization of DRM’ed media with devices other than the iPod. Once again, the legitimate user who bought his songs, bought his TV shows, and bought his Palm Pre, gets screwed.
I’m an Apple fanboy on many issues, but that’s not okay. And Gruber and Hunter should know better than to chastise the party that’s trying to do right by its users.