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Lisa Hoover, a social media consultant, spends most of her working day shuttling between her seven computers: her Linux boxes, PCs, and a Mac. She can find cross-platform programs to synchronize her disparate information, for example, the Google Calendar application can manage her schedule. But until July 11, there was no single service to tie her work life together. But now there’s MobileMe.
Apple’s MobileMe provides instant synchronization between multiple devices and computers. With MobileMe, you can schedule a weekend lunch date on your iPhone, and within moments, the calendar on your home computer mirrors the appointment. It’s a brilliant concept, to streamline the lives of those of you who keep your eggs in many baskets.
At least it would be, had it worked.
Users are still having problems with the MobileMe service, five days after its launch… a minor ice age in Internet time. Considering the fact that new users have paid $99—.Mac users get grandfathered in to the service--each day that MobileMe fails to deliver is money better spent on lattes.
The problems are particularly vexing because, in principle, MobileMe is a very good idea whose time has come.
Worse yet, MobileMe replaced .Mac , the tried-and-true online service that that formerly provided web access to the email of Apple's subscribers. For those that made extensive use of browsers to access email on the hoof, the radio silence is frustrating. New services can often be a little buggy in the 1.0 release, but disrupting existing services and being denied email… that’s just mean.
The troubles are as varied as the application itself is supposed to be, with no single difficulty to point to.
- You can set up your iPhone preferences in iTunes, and you can set up your Me.com preferences on your web browser. But if you do both, your iPhone hangs.
- Calendars are synching even when they’re not set to.
- When accessing Me.com, you’re presented with a window offering two video selections. There is no way to dismiss the window, not even after playing the videos. Although you can see your grayed-out messages behind the video window, you cannot access them.
Although Hoover can get her email, she says, “I can easily spend three or four minutes waiting for mail to come up.”
The service is slow in other ways. “I’ve noticed a lot of lag time between entering something in the calendar on the web page [on my PC] and having it turn up…on my Mac… I had to wait a day before it showed up on my Mac at home.”
David Strom, former editor-in-chief of Network Computing magazine, said that MobileMe appeals to him because it can run on both a Windows machine and a Mac and be run on every major web browser. In theory.
Strom faced problems from the moment he logged on to MobileMe. “When I first loaded it up with [Internet Explorer] 7, it says IE7 is not a supported browser. What planet are they on?”
MobileMe did not synchronize Strom’s 7000+ contacts, even though the synchronization program ran and seemed to complete. “The whole point of the service was being able to share my contacts on Mac and Windows platforms,” he said.
MobileMe “is the Windows ME for the Macintosh,” says Strom. “They got the ‘em-ee’ right.”
An Apple PR representative did not respond to an interview request. But Apple is aware of the difficulties; technical support can be found at http://www.apple.com/support/mobileme/.
It's not clear if MobileMe’s problems are due to the fact that it’s not quite ready for prime time or that it’s overloaded from being launched at the same time as the iPhone 3G. (One million new iPhone 3Gs, all of which need to be fully synced out of the box, may account for some slowdowns.) In reality, it's probably a little of both.
Of course, problems like this are nothing new to online service launches;
Sony bricked many PS3's with their recent PS3 firmware update.
But MobileMe’s flaws are exacerbated because they come from Apple.
With a history of terrific performance, tools that work when you need them to, and hardware and software that makes your life a fun place to be, users expect more from Apple than a service that either doesn’t work or works poorly.
The variety of complains, and the ferocity, suggests that Apple bit off more than it could chew when it released MobileMe.