USB-IF Sides With Apple, Spanks Palm in iTunes Synch Spat
The USB Implementers Forum, the industry group that oversees the universal serial bus standard, has finally responded to Palm’s claim that Apple is “hampering competition” by repeatedly disabling the Palm Pre’s ability to synch with iTunes–and it’s not looking good for Palm.
In a letter submitted to Apple and Palm today, the group dismissed Palm’s claim that Apple has violated its USB-IF Membership Agreement. Worse, the Forum took issue with Palm’s alleged use of Apple’s vendor identification number, which it says violates USB-IF policy.
Palm (PALM) had argued that Apple (AAPL), by issuing an update to iTunes that used the USB vendor ID number to prevent the software from automatically transferring content to any non-Apple USB device, had violated “the letter and spirit of the USB-IF Membership Agreement,” which is “intended to facilitate interoperability between USB devices, not to regulate the content that flows between them.”
But the USB-IF didn’t quite see things that way. “In the view of the USB-IF, Palm’s allegation (if true) does not establish that Apple is using its Vendor ID (VID) contrary to the USB-IF’s policies,” the group said. “Therefore, under present USB-IF policies, the USB-IF does not consider the alleged use, without more, to be ‘improper.'”
Ugly news for Palm, and it only gets worse–because the USB-IF goes on to suggest that Palm itself is violating its Membership Agreement by using Apple’s vendor ID number to disguise the Pre as an Apple device. From the USB-IF letter:
… Your letter also states that:
“Palm will shortly issue an update of its WebOS operating system that uses Apple’s Vendor ID number for the sole purpose of restoring the Palm media sync functionality.”
I attach for your information the USB-IF’s adopted and published policy regarding Vendor Identification Numbers (VIDs). Under the Policy, Palm may only use the single Vendor ID issued to Palm for Palm’s usage. Usage of any other company’s Vendor ID is specifically precluded. Palm’s expressed intent to use Apple’s VID appears to violate the attached policy.
Please clarify Palm’s intent and respond to this potential violation within seven days.
Clearly, this isn’t the outcome Palm imagined when it first decided to up the ante in its quaint little cat-and-mouse game with Apple. Reached for comment, Palm had only this to say: “We engaged with the USB-IF because we believe consumers should have freedom and choice in how and where they use the non-rights managed media they already own. We are reviewing the letter from the USB-IF and will respond as appropriate.”