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  (Source: Wired)
Apple's leader say MobileMe not up to snuff, is going back to the drawing board

One of the most popular services among Apple fans was the .Mac subscription service.  To coincide with the release of the iPhone 3G and further excite its dedicated fan base into a frenzy, Apple announced that it would be launching an updated version of its subscription service and all existing users would be migrated to the upgraded service.

Originally iTools, a free subscription service, .Mac evolved into a large community with over 100,000 users.  The yearly fees were $99.95 and various discounts were available.  For the fee, users got 1 GB (and later 10 GB) of storage or for a premium 2 GB or 5 GB of storage (later 20 GB or 50 GB).  They also got an Apple email address and a hosted webpage, as well as various other minor services.

The new MobileMe was an ambitious upgrade, bringing to the table improved calendar functionality, with the ability to sync to Microsoft Outlook or Apple's offerings.  It also featured improved web publishing tools and more photo options.

However, to say the release had a few problems would be putting it mildly.  The day of the release, July 10, many users could not download the update to install the service.  Secondly, those users who did finally get the new service were angered to see that the promised "iDisk File Sharing" service was not included.  Apple argued that all its services were "subject to change".

The file syncing was filled with glitches and many users reported losing photos during uploading.  After the first wave of problems, Apple's MobileMe team groveled a bit by writing users a humble apology stating, "We want to apologize to our loyal customers and express our appreciation for their patience by giving all current subscribers an automatic 30-day extension to their MobileMe subscription free of charge."

And then they went on to say, "We have recently completed the transition from .Mac to MobileMe. Unfortunately, it was a lot rockier than we had hoped."

This phrase infuriated users, who were still experiencing numerous problems.  Among these was Apple's push email service which was not working properly.  Apple's team tried to brush that off, saying that calling the service "push" email was a bit of a misnomer and a mistake on their part.  They stated, "Another snag we have run into is our use of the word "push" in describing everything under the MobileMe umbrella."

Problems continued to mount with many users being logged out and repeatedly asked for passwords and met with "damage" webpages.  The iWeb publishing service also was not working and publication was iffy at best.

One frustrated Apple fan reported, "I just spent the better part of an hour going through Apple's phone support maze only to be told that we are basically all hosed for at least a week. If you are a .Mac user and are trying to publish iWeb content via this MobileMe(ss), you can forget about it for now. It doesn't work. Period. There are huge bugs, and Apple is well aware of them."

Next Apple pulled another bad move in the eyes of many when it automatically checked an option in a Windows iTunes update to install MobileMe software.  Many users compared this to Apple's Safari download scandal that broke a few months back. 

Later in July, Apple's MobileMe email went down mysteriously.  Users could not access their email at all.  The beleaguered MobileMe team released a comment stating, "We understand this is a serious issue and apologize for this service interruption. We are working hard to restore your service."

On its status page, Apple claimed the outage only affected one percent of users, but acknowledged that 10 percent of emails were lost to internet gremlins.  Finally July 30, the Apple employee handed the unfortunate job of doling out MobileMe apologies, a character by the name of David G., stated that the problems were fixed, saying, "Thank you all for your extreme patience during this trying time.  By completing this restoration of Mail services, we hope we have put the vast majority of MobileMe Mail problems behind us and can now focus on improving other aspects of this new ambitious service."

The MobileMe woes were bad enough they attracted the attention of king bee himself, Apple CEO Steve Jobs.  He sent out an internal email to Apple employees, which was predictably leaked, stating that the service was released too early and was "not up to Apple's standards".  He said services should have been rolled out gradually as opposed to "as a monolithic service".  He adds, "It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store.  We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence."

While many would agree with Jobs’ assessment of the insignificance of the MobileMe service, the comment likely does not sit very well with MobileMe's 100k+ disgruntled users.

In response to the mistakes, Steve Jobs is cracking down on the management of MobileMe, ousting them in favor of Eddy Cue, who will now be in charges of all Apple internet services --  iTunes, the App Store, and now MobileMe.  He will report directly to Jobs. 

Jobs believes that he, Apple, and the MobileMe team have learned their lesson as he states, "The MobileMe launch clearly demonstrates that we have more to learn about Internet services.  And learn we will. The vision of MobileMe is both exciting and ambitious, and we will press on to make it a service we are all proud of by the end of this year."

Updated 8/5/2008
Ars Technica just posted the full text of Steve Jobs' email to the troops:

The launch of MobileMe was not our finest hour.  There are several things we could have done better:

– MobileMe was simply not up to Apple's standards – it clearly needed more time and testing.

– Rather than launch MobileMe as a monolithic service, we could have launched over-the-air syncing with iPhone to begin with, followed by the web applications one by one – Mail first, followed 30 days later (if things went well with Mail) by Calendar, then 30 days later by Contacts.

– It was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store.  We all had more than enough to do, and MobileMe could have been delayed without consequence.

We are taking many steps to learn from this experience so that we can grow MobileMe into a service that our customers will love.  One step that I can share with you today is that the MobileMe team will now report to Eddy Cue, who will lead all of our internet services – iTunes, the App Store and, starting today, MobileMe.  Eddy's new title will be Vice President, Internet Services and he will now report directly to me.

The MobileMe launch clearly demonstrates that we have more to learn about Internet services.  And learn we will.  The vision of MobileMe is both exciting and ambitious, and we will press on to make it a service we are all proud of by the end of this year.


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Arrogance; good if it's learnt from
By ATC on 8/5/2008 11:36:31 AM , Rating: 2
Apple was too confident in itself to launch so many products/services at the same time. MobileMe was the unfortunate division in the process that got the least attention it seems and they're paying for it.

For what it's worth, I find MobileMe a lot better and more useable and intuitive than .mac ever was (having used both). I did lose access to my .mac (now MobileMe) email account for 3 days when trying to view through the browser ( but I never lost access to it, not even for an hour, through Mail; I had it setup through the Mail program in OSX. Same goes for all other .mac services including web gallery and published calendars etc... I guess I was one of the lucky ones.

I suppose if I was on the road without my notebook needing to view the MobileMe site for checking email and other things, I'd be pretty upset too.

I'm happy with the 30 day extension on my account but I think others who had a lot more issues than me would probably never really be happy with how apple handled this. Maybe they can learn from it to avoid anything like it in the future. It looks like Jobs is pretty pissed about it and that's not a bad thing.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates
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