Why Palm Needs To Ditch iTunes and Create a Media Sync

Palm has released an update to its webOS mobile operating system for the Pre, v1.1.0

Yesterday Palm released an update to its webOS mobile operating system for the Pre, v1.1.0. The new webOS packs a handful of enterprise-oriented features, like the ability to remotely wipe the Pre, along with a number of maintenance fixes and more. But perhaps most interestingly, webOS v1.1.0 also "re-enables" the iTunes sync feature that Apple blocked via its own software update earlier this month.That's good news for Pre users, since it's remarkably simple to use iTunes to sync media libraries to the Pre. However, it'll no doubt be short-lived and Pre owners will soon find themselves in the same iTunes-sync-less position they did last week, when Apple released iTunes v8.2.1, which blocked Pre syncing.

Apple warned in the past that software updates could very well disable Pre syncing, because iTunes doesn't support non-Apple devices. And it followed through on its "threat," with iTunes 8.2.1. You can bet that the next version of iTunes will again disable Pre support, so it's only a matter of time before Palm's again faced with a decision to build another workaround to let sleeping dogs lie.

Here's my advice to Palm: Forget iTunes--at least directly. Apple is not going to allow Palm users to employ iTunes to directly sync Pres. Mark my words, Apple will disable Pre sync as many times as it takes Palm to get the message. Apple will do this as a matter of principle. So Palm's really only wasting time "fixing" Pre sync via iTunes, while it could be dedicating all of its time and development efforts to its own piece of software that integrates with users iTunes libraries to enable the same functionality.

BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion already offers such a piece of software: BlackBerry Media Sync, which is available for PC and Mac.

I strongly suspect Palm already knows all of this and that it's already in the process of building a BlackBerry-Media-Sync-like software offering for Pre users. I'd be surprised is this wasn't the case. Palm already released a related app, called the Palm Music Assistant for both PC and Mac, and enables iTunes "reverse sync." In other words, any music purchased via the Pre's standard Amazon MP3 app can be synced with iTunes, adding those tracks to users' iTunes libraries, whenever they connect their Pres to computers running Palm Music Assistant.

So Palm's already proven it can write decent code for Pre/iTunes interactions. It's time for the company to take that extra step and release a separate piece of software--one that Apple has no control over--for Pre/iTunes syncing. As is, the company's only wasting its customers' time playing foolish games with Cupertino.

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Al Sacco

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