Ever since January when Palm (PALM) unveiled the Pre — the first smartphone to challenge Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone with a multitouch screen of its own — the tech press has been waiting for Cupertino to respond. COO Tim Cook made a couple of clenched-teeth threats about companies that rip off Apple’s intellectual property, but nothing came of it.
On Tuesday, 10 days after the Pre went on sale, Apple published a one-paragraph support article on its website that addressed one of the device’s most ballyhood selling points: its ability to sync seamlessly with iTunes. The note doesn’t mention Palm or the Pre by name, but it doesn’t have to:
As John Gruber, the first to spot the snippy missive, put it in his Daring Fireball blog, “Translation: ‘Nice iTunes syncing you’ve got, Palm. Be a shame if something happened to it.'”
Other devices can be made to sync with iTunes, of course. Apple used to maintain a list of compatible MP3 players that included the likes of Creative Labs’ Nomad and SonicBlue’s Rio. And there are plenty of BlackBerry owners who regularly download songs from their iTunes libraries.
But the Pre is different. It presents iTunes with a hardware ID that identifies itself as an iPod — a hack the former Apple engineers on team Pre are well equipped to pull off. Led by Jon Rubinstein, who built the original iPod, they are perfectly capable of engaging in the kind of cat-and-mouse games Apple regularly plays with iPhone jailbreakers.
Indeed, Palm’s response to Apple support article HT3642 suggests that it has plenty more tricks up its sleeve.
Let the games begin.
Image courtesy of the New York