Back in January, I criticized Palm for not having a reasonable music strategy for the upcoming Pre, the touch-screen superphone that could save the company. At that time, I mocked Palm for suggesting that consumers would have to drag and drop music files from their PC to the Pre, which would appear as a mass storage device. As I wrote, "without iTunes, there's no iPhone. And without the iPhone, there's no consumer smartphone audience." (Users will also be able to buy downloads over the air with an Amazon MP3 client, but the vast majority of music on portable devices comes from the user's computer, not downloads.)
It looks like Palm took my criticism to heart: Thursday at the D7: All Things D conference, the company demonstrated the Pre and announced that its media sync capability would be built around...iTunes. That's right: when you plug the phone into your computer and hit the "media sync" button, it will launch iTunes and begin letting you transfer any DRM-free files to the phone. You'll still be able use iTunes to rip and store and organize your music, to sync it with any iPods you have, and to buy downloads. Why try to reinvent the wheel and risk disaster? Heck, why not go all the way and let iPhone applications run on the thing as well?
There's only one problem: what if Apple decides that it doesn't want a competitor using the software it built and developed? Could Apple force Palm into the sort of arms race that RealNetworks experienced when it tried to reverse-engineer iTunes' DRM scheme?
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