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Palm Restores iTunes Sync in Slap to Apple

Palm pushed back in its ongoing scuffle with Apple, re-enabling the Palm Pre's ability to sync with iTunes with an update to its webOS software.

Version 1.1 of webOS, the company's mobile operating system powering the Palm Pre, restores the iTunes synchronization feature that Apple blocked with its own recent iTunes software update.

Palm boasts several enhancements in the new version of webOS, released today, like improved messaging, e-mail, calendar and calling functionality, along with YouTube updates and inclusion of a "remote wipe" to enable deletion of key data in the event of a lost phone.

But its most notable component pertains to the feature that reestablishes the Pre's iPod-like connection with iTunes. In the release notes, Palm (NASDAQ: PALM) said the upgrade "resolves an issue preventing media sync from working with [the] latest version of iTunes (8.2.1)."

Earlier this month, (NASDAQ: AAPL) updated iTunes to version 8.2.1, adding a tweak that blocked the Palm Pre from presenting itself to the software as an iPod, which had enabled its users to sync with iTunes.

To some industry observers, iTunes sync is a key selling point of the new Pre, but Apple didn't take kindly to the feature, lashing out at what it described as "devices falsely pretending to be iPods."

"As we've said before, newer versions of Apple's iTunes software may no longer provide syncing functionality with unsupported digital media players," Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told InternetNews.com today.

Apple's effort to block Palm hadn't been a surprise: The company started hinting in recent weeks that any future iTunes updates would not support syncing with the Pre, prompting Palm to respond by discussing a workaround and saying that Apple wasn't acting in the best interest of its customers.

It now remains to be seen how the industry -- or Apple -- will react to Palm's latest jab.

Neumayr declined to comment on whether Apple would again block the Pre from syncing with iTunes.

At the very least, Palm, now under the leadership of CEO Jon Rubenstein -- a former Apple iPod veteran -- is making it clear that it won't go down so easily.

[cob:Special_Report]Part of that reason may be because so much is riding on the Pre's success. The device went on sale June 6 as Palm looks to right itself on the strength of its new smartphone and its webOS software.

While the Pre generally received positive reviews, industry watchers have criticized Palm for not launching the smartphone with more webOS applications. That's a shortcoming Palm is anxious to fix: mobile apps having proven to be a major driver for the success of the Apple iPhone.

Earlier this month, Palm began offering the webOS software development kit (SDK) coding community, looking to attract developers to the platform.

But Palm needs to land a knockout. Early this year, industry observers said that the Pre might be the once high-flying company's last chance to not just recapture its old position in the mobile device space, but to survive at all.

Update adds comments from Neumayr.