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Summary:

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 […]

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?

  1. 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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  2. Apple’s definition of ‘push’ does seem rather fluid, but you can get pretty close to proper push from the computer by changing the value of the AutoSyncInterval key in ~/Library/Preferences/ByHost/com.apple.DotMacSync.your_MAC_address.plist, as per this post on MacOSXHints:

    http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20080713174705717

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  3. 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.

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  4. I think they realized how much it would have charged the connection using a feature like that…

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  5. 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.

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  6. 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)

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  7. 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.

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  8. 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.

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  9. It seems Apple changes iDisk funcionality too like share archives specifying duration or time.

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  10. Actually it’s really easy to push you Mac’s iCal and Address Book to the cloud… You need to make a simple change in System Preferences. Try this: http://appleslut.com/software/how-to-sync-mobileme-address-book-ical

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