The latest iTunes update, version 8.2.1, may offer up a few bug fixes, but its real purpose is to prevent the Palm Pre from syncing with iTunes. The move isn't a surprise. Last month, Apple warned that future versions of iTunes probably wouldn't support syncing with non-Apple media players. Today, Tom Neumayr, an Apple spokesman, reinforced that position:
"iTunes 8.2.1 is a free software update that provides a number of important bug fixes. It also disables devices falsely pretending to be iPods, including the Palm Pre. As we've said before, newer versions of iTunes may no longer provide syncing functionality with unsupported digital media players."
[ Apple's initial threat to disable iTunes sync with the Palm Pre caused a debate among users | Stay ahead of advances in mobile technology with InfoWorld's Mobile Edge blog and Mobilize newsletter. ]
Palm had figured out a way to sync the Pre with earlier versions of iTunes, the one caveat being that the Pre couldn't handle copy-protected songs. Despite this shortcoming, iTunes integration was a big plus for Pre fans, particularly those migrating from an iPhone or iPod.
For a while Apple didn't seem to mind, only hinting that the functionality could go away saying:
"Apple is aware that some third-parties claim that their digital media players are able to sync with Apple software. However, Apple does not provide support for, or test for compatibility with, non-Apple digital media players and, because software changes over time, newer versions of Apple's iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with non-Apple digital media players."
Now the music is over.
Here is the work-around
So what's a Palm Pre user to do? The easiest option is to avoid upgrading to iTunes 8.2.1, since the sync feature should still work with older versions of iTunes.
Another option is to trying a third-party app like Salling Media Sync, a utility that synchronizes iTunes playlists, music, and podcasts with your mobile device, and it's free for basic use.
Apple's decision to play hardball with third-party media players may provide ammunition to critics who consider the iTunes/iPod ecosystem a monopoly that needs to be broken up. If a worthy iTunes competitor doesn't appear in the near future, we can expect to hear more grumblings about Apple's dominance of the online music marketplace.