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USB group says iTunes can block Pre

USB Implementers Forum cautions Palm against using an Apple hardware ID to let its Pre smartphone trick iTunes into granting access.

Apple now has the support of a USB industry standards group in its battle to keep the Palm Pre from using the iTunes music service.

The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) said in a statement Tuesday that Apple can block the Pre from connecting to iTunes. The group issued a letter to both companies warning Palm that further attempts to use iTunes would violate the group's policy.

The voice of the USB-IF is strong in this case since the group is responsible for issuing Apple the hardware vendor ID that lets its devices connect to iTunes via USB. Palm has used this process to its advantage by simulating the same ID for the Palm Pre, tricking iTunes into thinking the Pre is an Apple device.

That scheme worked until the recent release of iTunes 9, which broke the Pre's access, prompting Palm to complain to the USB-IF that the vendor ID blocks competitors.

But the group supported Apple's stance and cautioned Palm by letter that any further attempts to use the code would be a violation of its rules.

In its initial complaint, Palm told the USB-IF that the latest update of its WebOS would restore iTunes functionality to the Pre. In response, the USB-IF quoted policy and reminded Palm that it may use only its own issued vendor IDs, not those of any other company. The group asked Palm to clarify its intentions within seven days.

Palm and Apple were not immediately available for comment.

Even before the Palm Pre was released in June, people discovered that the device could connect to iTunes. Since then, Palm and Apple have fought a tug-of-war over iTunes access. Apple has issued various iTunes updates to block non-Apple devices, triggering Palm to find a way past them. Despite not-so-subtle warnings from Apple, Palm has remained persistent.