Palm Pre syncs with iTunes

Palm says feature adds ease of use, elegance; Apple won't comment

Early reviewers have dubbed the Palm Pre a strong competitor to the iPhone, with some notable problems, including short battery life and too few applications to run on the device.

But the Pre also takes competition to another level, since it allows users to synchronize the Pre with Apple Inc.'s iTunes, so that the Pre acts as if it were an iPhone or iPod. It's a feature Palm Inc. intentionally built in, and was defended by the mobile phone maker as an "easy and elegant way" for users to get access to music, photos and video content they own.

The ability to sync a Pre with music, photos and videos on iTunes was noted today by two reviewers, David Pogue at the New York Times and Walter Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal. "Apple's lawyers must be having conniptions," Pogue wrote.

"The Pre team, headed by a former top engineer at Apple, figured out how to make iTunes think a Pre is an iPhone or iPod, and the software acts accordingly," Mossberg wrote. " Apple can alter iTunes to block this."

Apple won't say whether its lawyers are having conniptions or whether it will block the Pre's access to iTunes. A spokesman said today that the company would not comment.

"I bet there will be some legal maneuvering by Apple over this," said Jack Gold an analyst at J. Gold Associates. "Apple protects everything."

When asked about the issue today, Palm referred to comments made last week at the All Things Digital conference by Jon Rubinstein, Palm's executive chairman. "We designed Palm media sync to be an easy and elegant way for you to take the content you own and put it on Pre," he said.

In a little-noticed statement that accompanied his comments, Palm said that media sync is a feature of the Pre's WebOS that "synchronizes seamlessly with iTunes, giving you a simple and easy way to transfer DRM-free music, photos and videos to your Palm Pre."

The ability to sync a Pre with iTunes caught the attention of a few bloggers, with one calling what Palm has done a " hack."

That blogger, Charlie Sorrel for Gadget Lab, predicted Palm's move will backfire when Apple decides to switch off the capability, angering Palm customers. "Nice work, Palm. Way to bring yourselves back from the brink," Sorrel wrote.

A blogger at the All Things Digital conference also took note of how Rubinstein dodged questions from Mossberg over how Apple might feel about the sync capability. /p>

Aside from the iTunes sync capability in Palm, which could be interpreted as good for some users, Gold said the biggest issue facing the Pre might be its need for fast wireless speeds to support various applications.

"How good Sprint holds up will be important," Gold said. "Remember, the early iPhone users were not too pleased with AT&T on network speeds."

The Times' Pogue took note of Sprint's slow network coverage while using the Pre from where he lives.

"It will be a matter of where you live," Gold added. "It's all the about the network."

Many reviewers also raised questions over Palm's ability to quickly add more applications. Gold said it will be critical for Palm, since having good applications that are easy to purchase wirelessly could help generate more revenue. "They need the revenues," Gold said.

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Matt Hamblen

Computerworld (US)
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