Apple blocks Palm Pre synching: Who cares?

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Yesterday Apple (AAPL) finally made good on threats and blocked the ability of Palm Pre owners to synch their devices with Apple's iTunes software. And that's just fine.

Expectations that Apple should open up its software to let other devices use it are unreasonable. Yes, in a perfect world of perfect interoperability, all devices should play nice with each other. But we don't live in that world and most of the technology companies I know of don't either. So why should Apple?

Here's Apple's statement: "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 Apple's iTunes software may no longer provide synching functionality with unsupported media players," said Apple spokesperson Natalie Kerris. Translation? Yes, we blocked Pre synching. Are you surprised?

Apparently, the masses were shocked, shocked! As reports filtered out over the internet that Apple had blocked Palm Pre owners from synching to iTunes, howls of outrage filled the blogosphere. Pre owners screamed bloody murder. The free information crowd went crazy. "Apple's iPhone and iPod Monopolies Must Go!" thundered one headline. It was as if there were no other options to Apple in music-playing and smartphones.

Naturally, no one seemed to be protesting that iPhone owners couldn't synch their devices with Windows-based music-playing devices or that Pre owners couldn't synch their devices with Blackberry software systems.

In a nutshell, it sure looks like Apple is being held to an extremely unreasonable standard. You can't play Wii games on an Xbox 360. But I have yet to hear complaints that video game packages are not compatible. The principle is the same. Makers of proprietary hardware devices allow software from competitors to run on those devices at their discretion. Period. If Apple doesn't want to support Palm, that's its prerogative.

This issue is not only confined to the technology sector. Honda doesn't feel compelled to support Toyota owners who would like to use Honda's superior airbag control systems, for example.

And while Apple may publicly discourage synching, it will probably do little to discourage serious hackers from figuring out how to synch a Pre with iTunes. In fact, workarounds were already surfacing hours after the press release.

Rather, Apple will do what it's always done: void warranties if a buyer seriously modifies the product from its original configuration -- something that every other maker of technology equipment does. The bottom line? Apple definitely does some things that deserve reproach, but this is not one of them. It is only fair to hold Apple to the same standard as everyone else.

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