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Apple Admits MobileMe Mess... To Itself

The MobileMe meltdown seems to have led to some heads rolling at Apple: Last night, Ars Technica reported that the company is reorganizing the MobileMe effort. The (generally reliable) tech-news site's report quotes an e-mail from Steve Jobs, in which he calls the service "not up to Apple's standards" and "a mistake" to have been launched at the same time as the iPhone 3G along with the software upgrades that went with that. To fix it, Jobs is placing Eddy Cue, Apple's vice president for iTunes, in charge of MobileMe as well.

I can't argue with Jobs's verdict and I suspect you can't either. I've been feeling that even my thumbs-down verdict was too generous: The silly little errors that I'd seen vanish at least briefly from the Web site -- like how some contacts randomly appear online stripped of all info but name and employer -- seem to have returned. And many of you have clearly had much worse luck with MobileMe than I have.

What's just as dismaying is getting so little info out of Apple about all this. Its "MobileMe Status" reports are vague to the point of uselessness, and its earlier apology seems inadequate to cover all the things that have gone wrong since then. Getting this latest news essentially by accident doesn't help matters.

(Apple's habit of what you could call "selective disclosure" will be part of Thursday's column, in which I will look at how some tech companies have used the Web to communicate with their customers.)

The Ars Technica story quotes Jobs's e-mail as concluding that "we will press on to make it a service we are all proud of by the end of this year." But how many MobileMe users will want to stick around to see if the company can live up to this pledge? Let's talk about that this morning, before our scheduled blog outage kicks in at noon.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 5, 2008; 10:50 AM ET
Categories:  Mac  
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While I was one of the lucky ones, the switch to mobile me was still a disaster for me. I lost all of my contacts, I cannot synch with Upgrading (aka paying MORE than the $100 yearly fee), and I am still loosing access to mail on a regular basis. If I could find a number about discontinuing the service and getting a refund, I would.

Posted by: Alexandria | August 5, 2008 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I am surprised that there has not been a quick flood of Apple bashing comments along the lines of "this is why apple is the worst company ever and Steve Jobs is the child of the devil." That being said this is an uncharacteristically bad mistake for Apple. I would not be surprised if quite a few people on the MobileMe project lose their jobs over it.

Posted by: That Guy | August 5, 2008 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Can you imagine the outcry if Microsoft had this big of a mess on their hands?

There would be rioting in the streets, replete with threats from the department of justice, Bill Gates burning in effigy, and the European Union banning MS products.

Looks like all the Apple fans will learn soon enough that bugs and flaws are a fact of life in a complex computing environment.

Posted by: Joe C | August 5, 2008 11:51 AM | Report abuse

You know many companies make mistakes and not many of them stand up to recognize the error and or try to fix it. I applaud Steve Jobs for his public apology and effort to find a resolution.
~Loyal Apple Fan

Posted by: Luchia | August 5, 2008 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I bought my first Mac in May and paid $100 for a year of the dot mac services. So far it's been money down the drain. Unable to sync any contacts from my Mac address book to mobile me despite following all instructions, on several different occasions including last night. I'm going to give the gallery another try since I might as well get something for my money. However my confidence level in the whole thing is so low that I am definitely not going to start using that email address for anything except receiving whatever emails Apple wants to send me. And am I the only one who's kind of creeped out by the whole "Mobile Me" name and logo? Reminds me of a horrible few months when I owned a PC running Windows Me, which was truly the worst experience of my 15 years using personal computers. Aargh!

Posted by: SuzatLarge | August 5, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Hi Rob . . . one other Apple peave: I use iTunes for Windows. Every so often the program prompts the user to update to a new version. The latest version introduced within the past few days is 7.7. Upgrading takes some time and effort, of course -- but nowhere on the Apple web site (or elsewhere, as far as I can tell) is there an explanation of what's new in the revised program, a courtesy that seems universal for other programs when upgrades or updates are issued.

If the innovations are minor or something that doesn't affect me, I might prefer to skip the upgrade -- but Apple doesn't help me decide.

Any thoughts?

Posted by: Richard | August 6, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

I have had a mac since grad school and love the computer, and had previously enjoyed my Mac mail.

I've been furious over the forced switch to Mobile Me. The worst was the inability to use your mail at all except on Safari or Firefox. When I contacted the company, and explained this now meant that I could not check my email at all while at work (my work computers do not have Safari or Firefox, and I don't have administrator privileges to do the upgrade).

Mac explained they would not be adding that functionality. So essentially, you cannot check your mac mail from most computers.

I'm starting to look seriously at getting rid of my long-standing mac address... which might not be a bad thing, as they have no way to allow me to change my maiden name to my married name on the account.

The rest of mac is great, but this mobile me thing is ridiculous.

And I must say, I can't help but compare the mobile me name to a certain JK Rowling character. Ew!

Posted by: Elizabeth T. | August 7, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

I bought a Mac laptop, and an iPod almost a year back. I think, Mac laptop was money down the drain. It looks great. But it gets hot at the bottom. Plus their operating system hardly does anything for free. You have to buy utilities to do everything that Windows does for free...
I am content with my iTouch. But the recent upgrade has erased all of podcasts. I am not sure if I will be able to get my favorite podcasts back or not. I paid for warranty, and I regret that too... I could have gotten a better machine with half the money.

Posted by: Rehan | August 8, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

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