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Apple Joins 21st Century, Starts Blogging it out, Kind of

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Those oh-so-familiar green (and red) status indicators from the old .Mac status page are a thing of the past, or at least so it seems. After 14 days of intense frustration caused by MobileMe, Apple decided it was time to put a little Public Relations effort into solving the communication problem. Some person, unnamed, has been asked by The Steve himself to start addressing concerns.

Steve Jobs has asked me to write a posting every other day or so to let everyone know what’s happening with MobileMe, and I’m working directly with the MobileMe group to ensure that we keep you really up to date.

The “blog” first started on Friday, and it contained some valuable information, empathy, and hope for the future. Apple is really going against its usual order of business by saying

…we’re going to favor getting you new info hot off the presses even if we have to post corrections or further updates later (emphasis added).

It seems that this whole mess has helped Apple realize that they can’t keep their customers in the dark when something this crazy is happening.

A week after Apple realized that 1% of MobileMe members couldn’t access their email, Apple engineers (working 24-7) solved the problem but do report that some of the mail has been lost completely.

We particularly regret to report the loss in the affected accounts of approximately 10% of the messages received between July 16 and July 18.

So, if you sent mail to someone on those days, you might want to resend it.

Apple also admits that the problem they faced with the MobileMe launch was Twitter syndrome (my words not theirs). They couldn’t handle the extra traffic that came to their servers that day and they needed to fix their scalability.

The day we launched MobileMe, we had a lot more traffic to our servers than we anticipated, with the result that access to the web versions of the MobileMe applications — Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Gallery, iDisk — was temporarily unavailable. We’ve since added server capacity and tuned our software to scale better — i.e. behave more gracefully when traffic spikes.

The team has also fixed 70 general bugs that affected syncing, the web apps, and the general speed of the web apps for MobileMe.

Supposedly, the mystery Apple blogger will post again this weekend, but we will see, won’t we? The post does sound like it is a real person writing it, and not some cold, disconnected, dispassionate intern who doesn’t really know what he is talking about. I am guessing it is some higher level public relations officer who is tasked with this assignment.

The blog is not entirely a blog, even though it does have an RSS feed. There is no place to add comments or ask questions. You can go to the support pages, but that is more of an FAQ than a place to discuss your frustrations. This is not too out of character for a corporate blog, though. Most of the various Google blogs don’t allow readers to leave comments, but they do show trackbacks, so you can see who is saying what about the blog post. I do think that Apple’s customers could really benefit from this blog, especially when things are going poorly.

For example, when I was waiting to download the iPhone 2.0 software upgrade legitimately, I really wanted to know why it was not available in the iTunes Store even though the website and iTunes said that it was available. A quick note on a blog like this would have calmed me down. That was not nearly as big a deal as the rest of the problems that day, but I think Apple could have saved some of its good name by communicating earlier.

We do have to be happy that Apple is finally saying something about the problems they have experienced. It is frustrating that it took them two full weeks to actually say something definitive about MobileMe’s “rocky road.” But, as I quoted above, it is not their style to say anything if there is a possibility that it might change. Well, here’s to hoping.

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