Sometimes I wonder why some companies put so much effort into making life harder for their own customers.
This time, I'm talking about Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL). The latest update to its iTunes software contains "a number of important bug fixes and addresses an issue with verification of Apple devices." This sounds benign enough, until you realize what that verification issue entails.
If you own a Palm (NASDAQ:PALM) Pre and enjoy its ability to sync music with iTunes, this bug-fix update will break that feature. Workarounds include not installing the update, managing your Pre's music with one of the many other digital jukebox packages that are available, or simply copying files the old-fashioned way.
If I owned a Pre, this wouldn't be a big deal. My wife doesn't even use iTunes to manage her iPod Shuffle, because we prefer the Winamp media library over iTunes anyway. But to the diehard iTunes fans stuck up the creek without a paddle, I can only assure you that this is a temporary issue.
This kind of back-and-forth happens all the time. The proprietary provider of software or services -- Apple, in this case -- updates its product to break unauthorized compatibility. Then, some clever engineer figures out how to get around the new restrictions, and everything works again. Lather, rinse, and repeat until the proprietary provider gives up and stops trying.
Apple has given up before. The music purchased on iTunes used to come with a cumbersome layer of DRM protection, but the company did a 180 turn this year and now proudly boasts that "every song in the iTunes Store is an iTunes Plus song" without DRM protection. So you can still buy songs through the iTunes music store and then upload them to a Pre by other means -- it's just not going to be as smooth an experience as managing the whole process in one program.
I get that Apple wants to keep iTunes and iPhones/iPods tightly integrated and exclusive. It's how the company became the biggest, baddest seller of media players and music. But if your iTunes customers already own a Palm Pre, or Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Zune, or Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry, this exclusivity policy can only serve to tarnish Apple's reputation for simple elegance. These users may have an iPod too, or even an iPhone, and simply want to streamline the way they manage their musical needs.
Give it up, Apple. Keeping third-party devices out of iTunes for a little while longer can't be worth the resources you put into keeping them out.
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.