Palm Releases webOS 1.2

Palm today released the first major update to its mobile platform webOS, an upgrade that includes support for paid apps in the Palm Catalog store and over-the-air downloads from Amazon’s MP3 Store.

Also noteworthy in Palm’s webOS 1.2 is what’s missing–the ability for the Palm Pre to sync directly with Apple’s iTunes software.

The two rivals had been involved in a back-and-forth standoff over the feature, which allowed the Pre to pose as an iPod by using the iPod’s vendor identification number, and therefore transfer content through a direct link iTunes, rather than through third-party software, as other devices do.

Palm launched the Pre with direct iTunes sync, touting it as a major feature, but Apple responded by blocking it with the next version of its iTunes software. Palm replaced it when it updated webOS shortly after, only to see Apple disable it again with the Sept. 9 release of iTunes 9.

During that time, Palm asked the USB standards group to make a ruling on Apple’s moves, claiming the iPhone maker was thwarting competition and therefore violating the USB Implementers Forum compliance agreement. Palm’s strategy backfired, however, with the USB board ruling that Palm was at fault.

But with webOS 1.2’s over-the-air download support for Amazon’s music store, the issue may be moot, as it could signal that Palm is now focusing on an alternative to a direct sync with iTunes.

The integration with Amazon’s music store works over both WAN and Wi-Fi, which means users can purchase digital music directly from the Pre over Sprint’s 3G network, as opposed to being connected to a computer through the USB port. This is the same method iPhones and iPod owners use to buy content from iTunes.

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