Palm complaint charges that Apple restrains trade

Jason Ankeny

Device maker Palm has filed a complaint with non-profit industry group USB Implementers Forum, claiming that Apple is restraining trade by blocking the Palm Pre smartphone's access to the iTunes digital media storefront.

According to Palm, Apple -- which enables only its own devices to connect directly to iTunes software -- is abusing the standards instituted to foster interoperability between computers and devices using a USB connection.

“There isn't much precedent for this case,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Mike Abramsky told the New York Times. “It's breaking new ground. In my mind, ultimately the users are the arbiters in the outcome of these situations.”

The USB-IF, founded in 1995, is dedicated to promoting and marketing USB, Wireless USB and USB On-The-Go standards, maintenance of the specifications and industry compliance--members include Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett-Packard and (you guessed it) Apple.

The USB-IF declined to comment on a timetable for responding to Palm's filing.

Palm first confirmed the Pre smartphone would enable users to synchronize with iTunes at The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital event in late May.

Palm executive chairman (and Apple veteran) Jon Rubinstein said users who plug their Pre into their computer would be offered the option of using the device as a USB drive, charging it or beginning a “media sync” session.

The device would sync with iTunes, although it would not be able to download DRM-protected digital music or mobile applications optimized for Apple's iPhone or iPod touch.

In mid-July, Apple made good on its threat to guarantee newer versions of iTunes would not provide syncing functionality with non-Apple media players via the release of its iTunes 8.2.1 update

“iTunes 8.2.1 is a free software update that provides a number of important bug fixes,” an Apple spokesperson told BusinessWeek.

“It also disables devices falsely pretending to be iPods, including the Palm Pre. As we've said before, newer versions of Apple's iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with unsupported digital media players.”

The cat-and-mouse game continued a week later with the release of Palm's own webOS 1.1 update, which the device maker promises re-enables media sync.

“That's right--you once again can have seamless access to your music, photos and videos from the current version of iTunes (8.2.1)," wrote Palm VP of business products John Traynor on the official Palm blog.

The USB-IF complaint is not the only issue facing Apple. The Federal Communications Commission is launching an inquiry into Apple's decision to reject the Google Voice application for the iPhone as well as the computing giant's corresponding removal of related third-party software from its App Store.

For more on Palm's complaint:
- read this New York Times article

This article originally appeared in



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