> Closed Apple

Closed Apple

Posted on Friday, July 24, 2009 | No Comments

One of the most entertaining stories in tech right now – in my opinion – is the mini battle taking place between Apple and Palm. Not the one in the handset market mind, but the battle over the use of iTunes and the ability to sync music.

The story started just before the Palm Pre was released in June to the US population, with Palm announcing the bold claim that the Pre would have the ability to synchronise a users iTunes music library directly onto the Pre (everything apart from DRM enabled tracks), something which no other device that doesn’t bear an Apple logo’d device can do.

Apple – ever the closed minded company they are who are desperate to keep any one and everyone away from integrating with their software – counterclaimed that the sync with Pre wouldn’t last long and that they were working on closing this loophole out as soon as possible. Last week, Apple did just that with the release of iTunes version 8.2.1, closing their media player doors to everyone without an Apple branded device once again.

BUT, it appears Palm have struck back again – two days later - with an update to their WebOS (version 1.1), that tweaks the synchronisation and re-enables the Pre to successfully communicate with iTunes.

Now it seems likely that the next time Apple update iTunes, once again the Pre will be locked out – but with Palm’s development team made up of ex-Apple employees who worked on the iPod technology, its likely that the lock out will be broken again and again, leaving only users slightly frustrated by both companies.

My question – why won’t Apple just quit it and open up the iTunes API’s to actually encourage and other devices to connect? Apple have done the hard work already securing iTunes as one of thee media player platforms, why would they now want to close out those customers who want to keep using the Apple software, but have changed their devices for something more appropriate to their wants/needs?

In a world where everything is opening up onto the web and API’s are being made available from everything from Facebook and Twitter and mobile phone applications – why haven’t Apple given up on their stubborn approach to keeping iTunes as a closed off system and opened it up to become the media player of choice to all those who wish to use it regardless of device? It’s something that Microsoft has gotten a lot better at more recently – allowing just about any other device that isn’t Apple to synchronise and play with Media Player or Media Centre.

And who better than Microsoft knows about the dangers of closing off their applications and systems? It’s the whole reason why Internet Explorer isn’t going to be bundled with Windows 7 in Europe – fending off European anti-trust regulations and allowing users the choice of applications and devices without creating a monopoly by limiting the competition.

Imagine for a moment that Windows 7 has just been released, millions have purchased copies on that first day and installed it on their computer systems – then these users have then downloaded and installed iTunes, only to find that it cannot be installed because Microsoft have disabled the ability for a competitors product to be installed on “their” operating system and built in the ability for iPhones/iPods to sync with Windows Media Player. Microsoft creates a nice, new monopoly in the media player space and close down/reduce the dominance of iTunes in the market. Not only would regulators have a field day trying to get Microsoft to open up their Operating System through various legal suites, Windows users of iTunes would rebel and demand the service be reinstated.

Applying this same logic to the Apple/Palm situation, why isn’t Palm, Sony, Creative, Zune, Motorola, HTC, or just about any other MP3 player or mobile phone manufacturer not allowed to use a popular media player application to act as a middleware application to sync their music collections – why not open up? Even if Apple simply provides the disclaimer that they wouldn’t be able to provide support for third party device integration?

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