SAN FRANCISCO — Palm's Pre smart phone just can't stay away from Apple's iTunes software.
Palm Inc. says the Pre can again connect to iTunes — only a week after Apple Inc. shut it out. A software update delivered automatically to the phones re-enables the transfer of music, photos and video from iTunes to the Pre, according to a Palm blog post made late Thursday.
The question now is how long the function will remain before Apple stamps it out again.
The $200 Pre launched in early June as a competitor to Apple's iPhone, becoming the first non-Apple device that could connect directly to iTunes. Apple crippled that function with an iTunes update last week, saying Pres were "falsely pretending to be iPods."
Palm's latest workaround is similar to the original trick it performed. When a Pre is connected to a computer through a USB port, the device gives out a hardware vendor code that Apple has been assigned by an industry standards group, the USB Implementers Forum. ITunes then recognizes the Pre as an Apple device and allows users to transfer content to it.
Palm spokeswoman Lynn Fox said her company thinks Apple is improperly using its USB vendor code. She would not elaborate, but Palm probably believes that Apple should not be allowed to set iTunes to respond only to devices with Apple's USB codes.
The USB group's rules, however, don't appear to be in Palm's favor. They state that a "vendor ID used by a product must match the (ID code) of the company producing the product." Fox said Palm has notified the group of its steps to make the Pre work with iTunes.
The USB Implementers Forum had no comment.
Apple does not appear likely to let the latest incursion stand.
"As we've said before, newer versions of Apple's iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with unsupported digital media players," spokesman Tom Neumayr said.
The iTunes battle is part of a larger rivalry developing between Apple and Palm, whose chairman and chief executive officer, Jon Rubinstein, once was an executive at Apple and oversaw the iPod. The Pre includes a "multitouch" screen, as does Apple's iPhone, that lets users do things such as pinch the display to zoom in and out.
Tim Bajarin, a technology analyst for Creative Strategies, is not surprised that Palm came up with a way to reconnect the Pre with iTunes. He expects the technology equivalent of a game of whack-a-mole to continue for a while because he doesn't envision Apple giving in to Palm.
Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu doesn't think Palm's compatibility fix was the right way to go, saying that "hacking someone else's software, especially if you're a publicly traded company, doesn't seem that professional." He thinks Palm should come up with its own iTunes-like software instead.