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Summary:

I have been using MobileMe, and its previous incarnation DotMac, for just over two years. Everyone has talked about the great features it has as well as some of the near-misses. However, I haven’t seen anyone point out a major flaw in MobileMe — how it […]

I have been using MobileMe, and its previous incarnation DotMac, for just over two years. Everyone has talked about the great features it has as well as some of the near-misses. However, I haven’t seen anyone point out a major flaw in MobileMe — how it does not compare to Enterprise class offerings.

With MobileMe, we can sync our calendars, contacts and email. We have a version of “push” which really only provides instantaneous email, not calendars or contacts. Even Apple has gone on record to state what is “push” and what is not. A colleague here on TAB also wrote about what we should have expected for push when MobileMe was released, as compared to what we received.

There are three main Enterprise server synchronization tools for calendaring, contacts, email, notes and tasks in the market.

  • Microsoft Exchange (or more specifically, Exchange ActiveSync)
  • Good Mobile Messaging
  • Blackberry Enterprise Server

Each of these services directly connects to Microsoft Exchange, Outlook, Outlook Web Access and Windows Mobile Devices/Blackberrys. If you have used any of these enterprise class services, you know what true “push” means (for calendars, contacts, email, notes and tasks).

One of the big misses that Apple left out of MobileMe is the ability to accept meeting invites from other users when not using a Mac. This especially causes problems when using the iPhone or the MobileMe web calendar.

In order to complete this meeting circle, we need to be able to accept these invites from anywhere. What makes this situation worse is that we cannot create/send meeting invites from the iPhone or the MobileMe web calendar. This is very frustrating, especially for those who use MobileMe for business (or personal business).

There are many situations where I am away from a computer and I want to send an invite to my wife for dinner (or maybe just put something on her calendar that I will be out for the evening). We both use MobileMe and yet my wife has to wait until I get home for me to send her the meeting invitation.

Another big miss is that Apple does not provide the ability to sync Tasks (To Dos in Apple speak) and Notes. Everyone and their mother has complained about Apple not supporting these two sync items, especially when adding tasks and notes on their iPhone or via the MobileMe web applications.

Thankfully, the Apple developer community has offered up solutions around these two missing items, some examples include:

There are many other solutions, although these three offerings have either Mac or Web clients, as well as iPhone applications.

Yes, Apple did achieve a reasonably decent service with MobileMe. It has been generally reviewed as such. However, for Apple to provide Enterprise-class synchronization, they will need to ensure native support for the management of meeting invites as well as notes and tasks. Sadly, we have no idea when Apple will add this functionality. Here is my vote for a major announcement at the Macworld keynote…

  1. Considering I use Google Apps to handle my emails and calendar, I’d prefer some sort of API so that Google could make their services sync.

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  2. What MobileMe really needs is iTunes Mobile. Ever seen http://www.anywhere.fm? It’s a site that let’s you upload your music, and then listen to it while you’re on the road. Apple already knows what music I’ve purchased, and they already have the music on their servers. It would be a huge selling point to consumers to be able to listent o music they had purchased in iTunes from any network-connected computer, without having to move the files on their iPod/iPhone.

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  3. Remember the Milk (RTM) is pretty cool and offers Google integration. My wife and I have a pretty crazy setup in which we sync our Outlook calendars using Google Calendar sync, then sync our Google calendars to our Mac, then our Mac Calendar to our iPhones. Sounds complex but it’s not to hard to set up and works pretty well, esp. when RTM is added to the mix.

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  4. Yes. This has driven me absolutely insane. People love to tout MobileMe for its simple integration. And maybe it is for consumers or small groups – but once you start dealing with dozen or more users, its not a viable solution. We adopted Google Apps for this purpose, which more or less works – at least more-so than MobileMe, and greatly more so than Leopard Server. Another is Zimbra, but requires a bit more work to get it going (or $$$ – We are in no way ever going to consider Exchange/Blackberry. Its too Windows-centric. All we run is Mac or Linux).

    Anyhow, AppleInsider had an article a bit back ( http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/08/06/10/apple_previews_mac_os_x_snow_leopard_server.html ), where it seems that Snow Leopard Server will act more like a localized copy of “MobileMe for Enterprise”. At least service-wise it will, a lot of the functionality will be there – push calendaring, a new contact server (LDAP has always been icky – so CardDAV looks really promising), push-notification (unknown if push-email is there. IIRC Leopard Server Mail is SquirrelMail, which doesn’t feature it).

    If they can tie that together nicely with a web-end for the non-macs(MobileMe-ish, but fix a lot of the Cal-bugs), it would be certainly tempting to adopt, and more closely fit the bill.

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  5. I fail to see the point of banging on MobileMe for not stacking up against Enterprise solutions when it clearly is not an Enterprise product, and never was marketed as such. Yes, the original slogan was “Exchange for the rest of us,” but you’re missing the point of “the rest of us.” MobileMe is for individual users, period. The fact that you cannot do things like accept meeting invitations on the iPhone can be simply chalked up to a to-do list on Apple’s iPhone OS development roadmap, just like other missing features like copy/paste. Apple knows. They’re working on it.

    But you’re comparing apples to oranges when you try to stack up MobileMe and Apple’s Mac+PC+iPhone ecosystem against BlackBerry Server or even Google Apps. Yes, these services share similar features, but in terms of who they’re designed for, they couldn’t be more different.

    The truth of the matter is that there is not another service like MobileMe available, at least not one built for consumers. There are *tons* of alternatives apps and services, many of them free, that can make up for one feature or another of MobileMe for consumers. But throwing MobileMe up against a wall with Exchange, BlackBerry Server, or Google Apps, and complaining that it isn’t built for workgroups is completely pointless.

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  6. David,
    I think the larger theme here is Apple’s persistent trend to “dumb things down.” True, not all users will desire Enterprise solutions, but why not offer it, thus providing a wider target for your product and tighter integration toward the Apple brand. I simply don’t see how it could hurt Apple to take this step. Also consider the fact that there really aren’t many other options out there that “just work” and have the storage capacity/price ratio. I am worried by this trend in Apple’s software design as well. Take the Calendar app on the iPhone. We have no alternative at the moment (at least for a true stand alone calendar…so no I don’t always want to get online to check a calendar) and this app is especially weak and two dimensional lacking essential features such as event searching that I would think any “individual user” would find quite useful.

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  7. @David: Its fine that MM is for consumer-oriented solutions. But those of us with Mac offices know that it doesn’t cut it. We want scalable solutions, but we don’t want poorly supported(Blackberry), or ridiculously expensive options(Exchange). About the only benefit of me rolling Leopard Server right now is user/group management, and system updates. Google-Apps does a good job already handling all other “major features” offered, and in many cases, as much better solutions (Gmail is better than Leopard’s SquirrelMail, GCal is better than Leopard’s CalDAV Server, etc).

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  8. @Mark: “Why not offer it?” isn’t going to magically take care of all the research, designing, programming, and supporting of major business and enterprise-class features that would have to go into this service. That’s a lot of work, and more importantly, it’s trying to turn MobileMe into something it is not.

    MobileMe is a service designed for regular consumers, and no one else. Period. One could even argue that it isn’t designed for savvy users like those who read Apple fan sites. In addition to all these extra features that would turn MobileMe into *something else,* they would also transform the service’s price into something that even more people would inevitably find reason to bitch about.

    It’s unfortunate that there isn’t some kind of “Exchange/BlackBerry Server for the rest of us,” but MobileMe is not it, and may very well never be it.

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  9. David,

    I agree with you. While I believe MobileMe should sync To Dos and Notes (I think it will eventually), and there are other tweaks necessary, overall I think it’s shaping up extremely well as a consumer solution.

    In fact, it already offers more than most consumers are likely to take advantage of.

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  10. MobileMe should be able to sync to subscribed calenders to your iPhone. Also, the birthdays from your address’s should also transfer to your phone. As it turns out, there is no way to get them to your iPhone.

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  11. Matthew Bookspan Saturday, November 15, 2008

    @David – I disagree that being able to send/receive meeting invites is enterprise-class functionality only. I painted a pretty clear consumer example of inviting my wife to dinner.

    Here is another consumer example – maybe you want to invite friends to meet you for drinks at a specific time/place and you are not sitting in front of iCal or Outlook.

    Honestly, there are endless examples of how this is relevant to consumers. Yes, you could do this in email, but then your friends have to manually create reminders rather than having an automated one from their calendar.

    And yes, it does take time to research, plan, design develop, QA, market and support services like this. Having built commercial software for almost 20 years, I am pretty clear on the process.

    It’s unfortunate that you dismiss this article for comparing MobileMe to Enterprise services like Exchange & Blackberry. The reality is that users of smartphones (iPhone, Blackberry, etc.) and IMAP email are not “regular consumers.” These consumers are more savvy. They might not necessarily read fan sites, but they do business and use MobileMe for that purpose because there is nothing else – except maybe some aspects of Google services) and have higher expectations for service offerings from large institutions such as Apple.

    Finally, I do agree with your last sentence of your second post. It is unfortunate that there isn’t an “Exchange/Blackberry Server for the rest of us.” MobileMe is not that service now and it most likely won’t be anytime soon.

    However, one can still make requests…

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  12. Yes, they should really consider a “Mobile Me Pro” version of their service. I am not a Mobile Me subscriber or iPhone user yet because I feel without these (basic) functions that Exchange and Blackberry offer, it’s not worth it. For my business needs, it’s not worth the sacrifice.

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  13. [...] make Mail, Address Book and iCal push clients — and wouldn’t mind a few features that Exchange has – but the above issues are pretty trivial. How often do you make, say, a contact change on [...]

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  14. It is stated in the MobileMe TOS that the service is not for commercial or business use. If you want exchange… Get exchange.

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  15. @Isaac. Thanks for the Captain Obvious about the MobileMe TOS. As the article says, that is why I want an enterprise edition.

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  16. Does anyone know if MobileMe will work with a Blackberry? If so how would I do it? Software? Web Links and any other info will be appreciated.

    Scorpion_6743@Yahoo.com

    KJ

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