What happened to Mac-to-MobileMe push?

32 Comments

There has been a bit of confusion over the existence of Mac-to-MobileMe push, as explained by this article on MacRumors. Apparently as it stands, there is no way to “push” changes made in Address Book and iCal up to MobileMe right away; instead you have to wait for your Mac to sync with MobileMe, which occurs every 15 minutes or so when set to Automatic in MobileMe Preferences. There is some dispute in the associated forum thread about whether or not Apple misled users regarding Mac-to-MobileMe push.

Let’s take a quick look at three pages on the MobileMe promo site, and compare them to Google caches of the same pages.

Page One

The current MobileMe on your Mac page makes no mention of Mac-to-MobileMe push whatsoever:

MobileMe works with the applications you use on your Mac every day. Changes you make in Address Book and iCal are synced with MobileMe every 15 minutes, then pushed to your iPhone or iPod touch. And your Mac receives the changes you make on your iPhone, iPod touch, or the web. MobileMe even syncs Safari bookmarks.

[…]

If you have more than one Mac, you can use MobileMe to keep your email, contacts, calendars, and bookmarks in sync across all your Mac computers and even a PC. You can also sync Dashboard widget preferences, Dock items, many application and system preferences, and Mail notes across all of your Macs running Mac OS X Leopard.

So what the current page says is what’s actually happening: MobileMe syncs with your Mac every 15 minutes. However, doing a little digging with cached versions of the page provided by Google, it’s easy to see where the confusion stemmed from. Here’s the cached page‘s text (cache from July 9, 2008; screenshot link in case the cache link expires):

MobileMe works with the applications you use on your Mac every day. Just about anything you do in Mail, Address Book, and iCal on your Mac is updated on your iPhone, iPod touch, and on the web at me.com. MobileMe even syncs Safari bookmarks on your Mac with the bookmarks on your other computers, iPhone, and iPod touch.

[…]

If you have more than one Mac, you can use MobileMe to push email, contacts, calendars, and bookmarks to all of your Mac computers and even a PC. With Mac OS X Leopard, you can also sync Dashboard widget preferences, Dock items, many application and system preferences, and Mail notes with all of your Leopard-based Mac computers.

Emphasis mine. It’s pretty clear that Apple has changed the copy of this page to reflect either some sort of change in the service, or simply to clear up some ambiguities. The earlier version of the page mentions MobileMe-to-Mac push (cloud -> Mac), but not the other way around, while the newer version makes no mention of pushing—to or from your Mac—at all.  I can tell you that I haven’t noticed push to my Mac working, either. Also, there is a fair amount of uncertainty about what happens to what “you do in Mail, Address Book, and iCal.” Is it pushed up to the cloud right away? Or does it sync at regular intervals? This was completely unclear in the original text.

Page Two

Here’s another interesting change, this time on the Features page. First, the current text as of this writing:

MobileMe stores all your email, contacts, and calendars in the cloud and keeps them in sync across your iPhone, iPod touch, Mac, and PC. When you make a change in one place, MobileMe pushes the new information up to the cloud, then pushes the change down to your other devices. Choose a sync interval for your Mac or PC. On your iPhone and the web, sync happens continuously.

Emphasis mine.

Now let’s look at the cached version of the page from July 12, 2008 (screenshot link):

MobileMe stores all your email, contacts, and calendars in the cloud and pushes them down to your iPhone, iPod touch, Mac, and PC. When you make a change on one device, the cloud updates the others. Push happens automatically, instantly, and continuously. You don’t have to wait for it or remember to do anything — such as docking your iPhone and syncing manually — to stay up to date.

Again, emphasis mine.

Again, nothing in the original version concretely says that information is pushed from your Mac to MobileMe, but it does seem to be implied. After all, “devices” is a broad enough term that it could include a laptop or desktop. Apple may have simply been too vague on what “devices” means. And in the new text, Apple seems to use “push” in a broad sense of information being sent from one device to another, as opposed to the more technically correct sense of it being “pushed” out as soon as it is updated (which causes a fair amount of ambiguity too!). Apple’s misuse of “push” here sounds more like the writer couldn’t think of another way to describe it.

Page Three

But here’s the clincher. From the current MobileMe on your iPhone or iPod Touch page:

No dock required.

Since your iPhone and iPod touch receive updates over the air, you don’t need a dock to keep your contacts, calendar, and bookmarks in sync. Make changes anytime or anywhere you want. MobileMe takes care of the rest.

And now the cached version from July 13, 2:59 AM GMT (screenshot):

No dock required.

You don’t need a dock to keep your contacts, calendar, and bookmarks in sync. Make a change on your computer or at me.com and it’s pushed over the air to your iPhone or iPod touch. And vice versa.

Once again, emphasis mine. In this case, however, there isn’t really any ambiguity; it seems pretty clear that Apple was planning to implement push from computer to MobileMe. Or at least that’s what their marketing copy states, unless they misused “push” here too (see my not above); somehow I doubt that.

MobileMess?

These aren’t the only pages where the marketing copy has been changed. Poke around the MobileMe site and compare it to the Google cache versions of the page, and you’ll likely find more changes; I sure did.

So that brings me to the question, did Apple really intend on providing Mac-to-MobileMe push and were unable to deliver? And did Apple intentionally mislead customers?  Regardless of what Apple planned and what Apple delivered, I don’t think it was Apple’s goal to mislead customers. That said, if Apple was unable to implement some of the planned functionality, it would have been nice to let customers know what was up. After all, push from everywhere wasn’t just a minor feature; it was the key selling point to MobileMe. 

What say you? Did Apple drop the ball on this one?

32 Comments

vanni

@jon updates will happen both up and down no matter where the cal event is added…but it takes 15mins if you have sync set to automatic.

jon

quick question, when i make a change at the me.com website to my calendar or contact it doesn’t “push” the change to my mac – does the “push” only work if it’s originated on the mac not at the me.com website?

cmfnyc

I share a little bit of Harvey’s patience and a little bit of Brandon’s frustration. For me, I don’t have what I think are unrealistic expectations that you can flip a switch with new software applications and have everything working fine. I’ve experienced enough woes with Creative Suite activation (a $1000 headache) and other apps to understand rollout have limitations. So I share Harvey’s let’s-give-them-a-chance-to-iron-things-out perspective. That said, I do want more documentation and dialogue from Apple. I don’t mind stopping sync services and doing a reset sync data to get things working. This information should have been circulated BEFORE MobileMe launched. I also don’t mind staggered delivery of full push services from MobileMe, just tell me. And I think it was pure hubris on Apple’s part to simultaneously launch so many new services/products at once. At first I thought it was smart to begin the .Mac transition on Wednesday, ahead of July 11 deadline, but it became clear the scope of the MobileMe transition (software updates, getting services online across multiple countries). They should have rolled out MobileMe two weeks before the iPhone launch, not the same day. That said, things seem to be working on my end, once I resynced my MobileMe account and iDisk. And I could be wrong, but I have noticed push from Mail to MobileMe seems to be speeding up. I was going back and forth between Mail and MobileMe Mail and noticed emails I deleted in Mail getting removed from MobileMe.

Brandon Eley

Harvey, not fair?

Apple released 4 new products. We’re not talking beta releases here, they should have been tested and ready before they pulled the trigger. I think it’s just the right time to comment on any flaws of Apple’s server-based services. They launched, and broke. And lots of people (including me) are having issues syncing or even accessing their content on MobileMe.

It is not unreasonable to expect a newly launched service to function properly. In this world of “Web 2.0” and “beta” there should still be some companies that actually ship real products when they’re ready to ship.

I don’t pay $100/year to beta test software for Apple… I spent 2 hours this morning just trying to get my calendars to sync. I had to go through 3 different troubleshooting processes (via Apple’s support documentation) to finally get it working. I never changed anything on my end… just the MobileMe upgrades.

Harvey

I think there is too much drama in this thread. I think Apple wanted to implement push from laptops and desktops and discovered it wasn’t easy to trigger it in the first go-round, especially from Windows machines. This might be Plan B to get the thing out the door. Everything is a work in progress, so it’s possible they could add this very soon. It’s not the magical experience I had imagined, but it works just fine nonetheless.

It’s also premature to comment on flaws on any of Apple’s server-based services, since they just introduced four major products at the same time. Just the sheer volume of iPhones caused server melt-downs that probably had the side-effect of disrupting MobileMe. Let’s let everything settle down for a couple of weeks and see how everything works after Apple’s technicians have had a chance to get some sleep, a shower, and a change of clothes. It’s not fair to hassle them now.

vanni

“I like Apple. I like their products, but for these issues to be outstanding and for there to be NO announcement/acknowledgement about the problems is not a way to run a rollout. Keep people informed even if you don’t have a solution as yet.”

I agree! Why can’t there be status messages on the MobileMe apps and services.

I continue to get frustrated and i am making no progress in trying to tame this beast.

Apple you have utterly failed in the roll-out of mobile me!

TW

The push issue with MobileMe is a big one, that’s the main reason I signed up. Having said that, I am finding that slowly but surely, things are synching (especially contacts), but there are a few outstanding issues that should NOT take this long to fix:

1. In MobileMe Webmail (me.com), when you create a new email, you cannot insert contacts. You receive the message “Contacts is Temporarily Unavailable”. This is ridiculous. You end up having to open your address book and then clicking on the person you want to email. After 6 days, this should work.

2. In MobileMe Webmail (me.com), when you go to your calendar, you constantly receive the error: “Calendar Error; MobileMe Calendar could not start because it was unable to load any calendars from the server…”. You still cannot add any new entries into the calendar via me.com (although you can on your iPhone).

3. Email that is deleted on the iPhone still appears in the Inbox on MobileMe Webmail (me.com). You have to manually delete it from me.com or log off and log back in. Once again, after 6 days, this should be fixed.

I like Apple. I like their products, but for these issues to be outstanding and for there to be NO announcement/acknowledgement about the problems is not a way to run a rollout. Keep people informed even if you don’t have a solution as yet.

vanni

for those of us who had a Dot Mac account and had everything working fine, this transition to Mobile Me is a total friggin disaster. My Homepage is gone! My iDisk is all screwed up… deleting in the Finder does not update on the Cloud. Email on the cloud cannot parse html email from google ,,,, etc etc. I am totally disgusted with Apple over this fiasco! jeez could they not do things in stages. Move the old accounts over in a sequential manner with proper documentation of what we had to do to prepare for the NEW service? Brand new mobileme accounts are probably all working fine ….

Joshua

I have a trial of MobileMe and so far it works great! I don’t know what all the complaining is about… Apple customers expect perfection from Apple and while this speaks highly of Apple’s reputation, and they deliver this 99% of the time, the public HAS to understand that things change, no one can foresee the future, no matter how much planning was done. Apple ALWAYS has made up for lost time (the $100 rebate) so don’t worry, be patient, remain loyal and Apple will make it up to you!

Chris

I find that after my mac syncs, I need to quit and relaunch iCal for the changes to show..what gives?

Brandon Eley

I think Apple greatly underestimated the strain on resources the switch to MobileMe and iPhone 3G would have on their infrastructure. It was pretty clear in the Keynote, and in all the docs on the website that MobileMe was PUSH technology… for email AND contacts/calendar.

I personally think Apple rolled out MobileMe and their servers crashed due to all the updates, so they had to roll-back features ala Twitter to keep the whole service from going down permanently.

I almost think they’ll roll out push updates in the near future after some tweaks or hardware upgrades. It’s such a useful feature to be able to have access to information quickly. One problem I’ve always had with the 1st gen (and now 3G) is lack of PUSH technology in IMAP (not MobileMe) email. Checking every 15 minutes is wasteful if there isn’t mail and too slow if there is.

Tom

How is Apple going to compensate us for beta testing their half-baked mess?

Chris

The walkthrough did indeed show push from Mac to Mobile. They very much made it appear a nigh on instant change on all devices regardless of which one you made the change from.

Gary

I watched the MobileMe walkthrough on the Apple website and I’m pretty sure it promised push from the Mac to the cloud.

I’m not a big user of iCal, but from memory it has always published changes pretty well straight after they have been made on the Mac, what’s this about a 15 minute delay now? I made some changes to the online AddressBook on friday, and my Macs didn’t update those changes till last night (Monday)!

Michael

I personally think that Apple was caught trying to perform one of its greatest feats (releasing iPhone 3G, MobileMe and AppStore) without the proper resources available. Arguably, each of them are a big task in itself, but released together, it just would have been mindblowing to see them all in action together.
I think that Apple should have released the iPhone 3G first, then the AppStore, then MobileMe. Users could at least continue to use .Mac as it already existed and get those two new products working well.
I seriously hope that Apple starts to carefully plan its growth, rather than be lured into massive expansion beyond its capabilities. It looks like its already bursting at the seams….

Tom

It’s funny how things are being airbrushed out of the picture. Share file was part of the MobileMe intro video, but was deleted after one day. The website mentions this feature repeatedly, but again, it is nowhere to be seen. This product was not fully baked and should never have been released in this state. Very much a black mark on Apple’s record. Bait and switch anyone?

cmfnyc

I am really enjoying the new .mac (MobileMe). A software update and sync data reset and I’ve got all systems going. I am satisfied with my new personal communication center and less worried about push. What I greedily want is for Apple to fill in all that icon space at the top of MobileMe with some iWork and maybe even third party goodness.

najt

Brendan, I’ve been using Time Machine with my Airport Extreme (with a USB disk attached) for a few months now. There was a update for the AE that enabled this.

ben

Marketing text is one thing, the keynote is another. I understand some marketing dude getting mixed up, but the keynote features Mr. Jobs and Mr. Schiller touting push all over the place. Phil goes on and on about how you change it here, it pops up there, and vice versa, over and over again.

Then there’s the whole “exchange for the rest of us” slogan. If this current functionality is what exchange is like, then my company must be running a cool super-secret version of exchange that’s able to keep my information updated in real time.

Brendan West

Hey I’m still waiting to be able to use my Airport Extreme with Time Machine, I don’t think we should start ANOTHER argument over Apple’s quiet change of policy… (yes, I think they dropped the ball)

John V

Push Question – I have an ipod touch and my wife has a iPhone. I have an individual mobileme account under my name and have push set up to push my email, contacts and calendar to my ipod touch. If I want to also sync the calendar and contacts with my wife’s iPhone, do I need a Family Pack mobileme membership so that she has a me.com address too? It seems the push is tied to the me.com email address, but I can’t seem to find an answer on this anywhere.

najt

Con of the year. Good thing is paid for mobileme before they changed the feature set…

Now everytime is close the lid of my laptop I have to worry if the changes I just made to my calendar were synced.

Thijs

Seems to me, iPhone is a preview of things to come. If one (OS X Touch) can do push, why would the other (OS X) be unable? I think we’ll need to wait a bit to see things appear on both systems, like Exchange support coming to the desktop. Right now; the largest part of the MobileMe revolution is between the web apps and the iPhone/iPod Touch.

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