The Palm Pre’s biggest liability appears to be Palm itself.

I used to have a high amount of respect for Palm. These days… not so much.

Doubtless people have been seeing ads for the Palm Pre all over the place. The Pre is their biggest phone release since the Treo, really. It boasts a brand new OS (WebOS) and is supposed to be the most advanced of the Palm phones. Normally I would be interested from the get go, but there were two things standing in the Pre’s way from my standpoint. The first was that, of course, I’m kind of attached to my iPhone. The second is that the Pre is exclusive to Sprint.

Now, however, there’ve been two missteps on Palm’s end that completely destroyed any desire for me to use the Pre. The blatant dishonesty and… well, laziness, for lack of a better word shown by Palm has been mind-boggling.

The first misstep involves the Pre’s ability to sync with iTunes. Now, to go about it the right way, one either develops a third-party utility that references the iTunes library database file (like Blackberry does), or one does a deal with Apple. What Palm ended up doing was spoofing the USB identifier of the iPod, thus making iTunes think that the Pre was in fact an iPod. Apple worked to block the Pre, and Palm ended up reporting Apple to the USB Implementers Forum, the organization that maintains standards, compliance, and vendor IDs for USB. Palm claimed that Apple was using the USB identifier in such a way that it blocked interoperation of devices, something that was against the membership agreement for USB-IF. Unfortunately, not only did USB-IF say that Apple’s use of the USB identifier was completely fine, they stated that Palm was completely in the wrong for using Apple’s identifier. iTunes 9 finally broke syncing with the Pre.

Now, there’s word that another of Pre’s applications is a source of trouble. The Pre uses a piece of software called muPDF for its PDF reading functionality. The developers of muPDF, Artifex Software, released muPDF under the GPL (quick summary: you can distribute the software as you see fit, but any changes you make to the source code must be distributed as well). They also state that if someone were to include muPDF as part of an application, either the new software needs to be distributed as GPL, or a commercial license from Artifex is required. Well, Artifex has sued Palm, stating that while muPDF is included in the Pre, they neither purchased a commercial license nor have they released the modified program’s source code.

The Palm Pre might be a wonderful device. I personally haven’t tried it, as I don’t know anyone who has one. Still, considering these two blatant legal issues that Palm are embroiled in right now due to trying to take a shortcut, it makes me wonder how many other problems the device has, legal or otherwise. They’ve already been shown to cut corners in licensing and development. It’s a shame, really… my first PDAs were Palms and Handsprings. Now, though, given everything that’s happening… I’ll stick with Apple, HTC, or Nokia, thank you very much.

2 thoughts on “The Palm Pre’s biggest liability appears to be Palm itself.

  1. I wasn’t aware of the problems. Not that I’d go to sprint (though their ads have been interesting lately) but, I guess I never got into the whole palm thing.

    -Shoe

    1. Palm devices used to be the big dogs of PDAs. PalmOS was quick, simple, and worked VERY well as a dedicated PDA OS. I’ve had three Palm PDAs: a Palm IIIe, a Handspring Visor, and a HandSpring Visor Pro. (Handspring was founded by Palm’s founders, and Palm bought them sometime in 2005 or thereabouts.) However, as time went on, Palm stagnated and never released needed updates to PalmOS. They were eventually overtaken by Windows Mobile, Blackberry, and Symbian.

      Then again, while I had hoped Palm would turn things around, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Back in 2007 or so, we had a couple of users who absolutely INSISTED they be issued Palm Treos at work. Those things were the biggest pieces of junk I’d ever seen. The number of times we had to replace their devices due to warranty exchanges was unreal. After about a year or so of that, those two staunch Palm users very happily migrated to Blackberries.

      Palm used to be a great company. How the mighty have fallen…

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