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Get Off My Platform! Apple Cuts Pre's iTunes Connection

Get Off My Platform! Apple Cuts Pre's iTunes Connection

Apple wasted little time kicking Palm off its platform. When it was launched, the Palm Pre advertised the ability to sync with iTunes. A little over a month after Pre's release, Apple jammed that connection, though workarounds can still be done. Apple hasn't just been slapping rival devices, though -- it's wreaking destruction to the entire wireless industry's status quo, according to analyst Craig Moffett.

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
07/17/09 4:00 AM PT

There's a lot of interesting activity to consider in the Apple-focused blogosphere this week, but three items in particular look like they might create some fairly long-range ripples.

One analyst says that Apple and its iPhone are wrecking the cellular industry. For Palm, that may very well be true -- Apple cut off the smartphone manufacturer's easy (and unauthorized) Palm Pre iTunes syncing ability.

Finally, in a possible win for prosumers and computing pros alike, there's a rumor running around that Apple might actually give users an option to buy an anti-glare screen in smaller MacBook Pro form factors.

Apple as a Wrecking Ball

Most every tech watcher and smartphone users is well aware that Apple has shaken up the smartphone industry. But is it really wrecking the whole cellular industry?

The relationship between Apple and AT&T is like the one between Apple and music labels back when Apple had to play nice as it launched the iPod and iTunes, according to Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research, as reported by AppleInsider. Of course, once Apple became a power player, the CD-driven music industry certainly changed.

While Apple has driven new customers to AT&T in the U.S. with its iPhone, AT&T has started to take the brunt of feature criticism -- issues with 3G connection, data plans, MMS and tethering, for example. The shift in power to Apple means that Apple can dictate terms, and it gives the iPhone maker a powerful weapon: the threat that it could take its gloriously popular phone to competing service providers.

Also, as the U.S. government reportedly mulls whether to investigate exclusivity deals as being anti-competitive, that intervention might not be needed.

"In short, the iPhone seems to be doing just fine at wrecking the wireless business without the government's help," Moffet notes, as reported by AppleInsider.com.

Still, not everyone agrees with the "wrecking" sentiment -- or even the notion that Apple has recast AT&T as the villain.

"Nonsense. AT&T brought that entirely upon themselves through incompetence. Apple gave AT&T the opportunity to be the hero and AT&T failed their customers by being late on MMS and tethering and failing to adequately prepare for the huge increase in data usage that they should have seen coming from miles away," commented Zweben on the AppleInsider.com post.

Others simply say it's an issue of figuring out what customers actually want ... and then finding a way to give it to them, rather than offering something else entirely.

"AT&T and all of the other cellular providers imagine an Internet with a toll booth at every entry point, on every device, and at every node or junction. Consumers want an internet with unlimited everything, one monthly charge per customer (not per device), no mention of terms like: Contracts, Kilobytes, Roaming Charges, Cancellation Charges, etc. What's really happening here is that Apple is giving the customers what they want but AT&T (and the other networks) are giving the customers the shaft (or to be nice, exactly what the customers don't want)," added davesmall.

Still, the iPhone is still just one phone in a very big industry.

"I think Apple has changed the wireless industry in the smartphone sector, and customers on all networks benefit from the advanced services; however, I don't think Apple will change the entire industry by any stretch -- just their share of the industry," Jeff Kagan, a telecom industry analyst, told MacNewsWorld.

While Apple has disrupted the industry because it brought amazing features to the marketplace that customers love, Kagan said, many of those features are now available on competing devices.

"The majority of the industry still does not use or does not want to use an Apple iPhone, as popular as the device is. The new features, available on other devices, are welcome," Kagan added.

Apple Tells Palm to Talk to the Hand

Apple's latest 8.2.1 iTunes update reportedly breaks the Palm Pre's easy iTunes syncing functionality. The new release notes in 8.2.1 spells it out:

"iTunes 8.2.1 provides a number of important bug fixes and addresses an issue with verification of Apple devices."

Some seem to think Palm is in the wrong in the first place with issue, but it remains somewhat sticky.

"Usually, I wouldn't want Apple to break functionality like this, but methinks since Palm knows the only way it can compete is by 'pretending' to be an iPod/iPhone, it makes it OK," zackisamazing commented on the The Unofficial Apple Weblog's post on the subject.

"I'm with the people that are surprised it took this long. While I don't think letting the Pre work with iTunes would have an adverse effect, it might encourage the behavior, which does dilute Apple's iTunes enterprise," added Christina Warren.

Nonetheless, the issue did manage to raise some hackles.

"Let me ask you guys this, what does allowing the Pre to sync with iTunes hurt? Nothing. This is anti-competitive behavior plain and simple. If Microsoft only allowed Zunes to use the Zune Marketplace (save your irrelevant 'Zune Marketplace sucks compared to iTunes' comments please) people would be all over them," added Christopher.

There's a Workaround

While Palm is advising customers not to upgrade to 8.2.1, there appear to be workarounds even for users who have updated. It just takes a little more work.

"There are many ways for users to get around this. It doesn't mean Palm Pre users are locked out. There's third-party free apps that allow you to sync devices with iTunes. What this does is it changes the iTunes syncing from being something for every Pre user to just savvy Pre users -- and that's going to be difficult for Palm to get around," Chris Hazelton, research director of mobile and wireless for The 451 Group, told MacNewsWorld.

"I disagree with where Palm has been going with this, using Apple's tools -- Apple uses iTunes as a differentiator, and they are well within their rights to block other devices," Hazelton said.

"The Pre is arguably the first competitor for iPhone in the U.S., so I think Apple is particularly conscious of the Pre. If Palm is going to be leveraging iTunes in such an open way, it's no surprise that Apple is going to block it. And Palm put itself in a tough position by openly touting the iTunes compatibility," he added.

Perish the Glare

Apple's move to mostly glossy screens on its laptops managed to annoy a niche group of prosumer and professional Mac users who depend on their machines to provide glare-free views day in and day out. A matte finish is much better than glossy when it comes to detailed photography and graphic design work. Right now, Apple only offers a matte finish screen option on its 17-inch MacBook Pro models, but according to an AppleInsider.com report, all that might change.

"Though speculative at this time, it would appear that the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros would be the most likely candidates to receive antiglare options," AppleInsider.com reports.

"Ouch! My wife bought a 13 inch MacBook about six months ago with no firewire and the glossy screen, both of which are problematic. I guess it will be eBay time when the next 13 inch pro comes out with a matte screen," commented Jerseymac.

"I never quite understood why Apple, a company claiming to offer BTO (build to order) computers had too many missing options. At some point the BTO rings hollow if you're proverbially telling folks 'you can have any color you want as long as it's Black,'" added hmurchison.

Some hope the matte options will extend to other monitors, or possibly the iMac.

"It's about time. I wonder how many monitor sales this idiot idea has cost Apple. I would have bought the 24 inch but went elsewhere," commented Ed Wood on the TheAppleBlog post on the subject.

Popular as matte might be among a certain type of buyer, the option could well end up costing the customer extra.

"I think it is wonderful that Apple is listening to its customers and possibly giving the option for matte screens; however, to add a (US)$50 premium to the choice seems more like a Microsoft practice than that from something designed in Cupertino," Sven Rafferty, Director of Internet Technology for hyperSven, told MacNewsWorld.


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