10 Ways to Make MobileMe Perfect

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When Phil Schiller unveiled MobileMe onstage at WWDC in 2008 and described it as “exchange for the rest of us,” I was sold. Who wouldn’t be? All my email, contacts and calendar data pushed to all my devices, all of the time? My entire digital life kept seamlessly, perfectly synchronized with zero effort on my part? I was completely sold.

But MobileMe had a rocky start. By “rocky,” I mean to say that it was an unmitigated disaster, released to the public when it wasn’t even properly baked. Since then, only about five people (including me) have bothered to pay for an annual subscription. But despite all that early negative coverage, I can honestly say that the vast majority of the time, MobileMe works brilliantly.

Of course, there are things that could be done to improve it. And at a time when about half of all new Macs are sold to Switchers, and the iPhone is dominating the smartphone market, it seems a prudent time to ponder what Apple could do to make MobileMe not only brilliant, but irresistible.

So, in no particular order…

Webmail

The web-based mail interface is sleek, minimal and…a bit rubbish. I totally get Apple’s design aesthetic, but every other webmail service on the planet offers more compelling functionality and mail management. The UI feels like it was made in 1998, not 2008. There’s no reason it can’t make it totally modern and totally “Apple.”

Performance

This is another web app issue. The web-based Mail, Contacts and Calendar are too slow. There are odd days when they just pop on the screen -– sometimes so fast I have to wonder whether it was the browser doing a little javascript burp. But other days they’re so painfully slow they time out. This happens to me on different machines, on different networks, in different browsers.

Browsers

While we’re on the subject of browsers…if Google can get Gmail to work in different browsers without resorting to smug incompatibility warnings, Apple should be able to do the same. Dear Apple Engineers: So what if a customer is using IE7? Plenty of people are. That’s not going to change any day soon. Stop worrying about it and just deal with it.

Sync Speed

There are times when a change takes an interminable length of time to propagate through the system to my other devices. Not often, but it would just be awesome if that never happened.

Gallery Overhaul

The MobileMe Gallery looks beautiful. It’s also fantastic for sharing pictures and videos with family who would feel intimidated in Flickr. Yet, Apple really ought to look hard at Flickr and take notes; there’s a lot more the Gallery could do to make it a killer web app.

Massive Storage Upgrade

This one’s easy. In fact, I expect to see this happen, and soon. Google offers gigabytes upon gigabytes of free storage via Gmail, Picasa and Google Docs. Even Microsoft offers more generous storage with Mesh, FolderSync and other Windows Live services. By comparison, MobileMe’s 20GB is not only meager, it’s downright mean-spirited.

More Granular Sharing Options

A MobileMe “family pack” already exists, but doesn’t offer the same kind of flexibility and fine-grained data-sharing one would find in an Exchange service. I’d love to “link” my MobileMe account with my spouse’s so we can both access and edit selected calendars. A global address book would be awesome, too. In a multi-Mac/iPhone household, that kind of granular sharing would be invaluable.

iPhone Backup

Speaking of iPhones, how about automatic wireless backup of an iPhone’s other data not already synced through MobileMe? Sure, emails, contacts and calendars are already covered, as well as Safari Bookmarks. But how about adding SMS messages to that list? Or application preferences? I dream of a day when I can restore my iPhone, or migrate to a new iPhone, and not have to spend an inordinate amount of time tediously configuring app settings one by one; instead, I’d enter my MobileMe data into the iPhone and a few minutes later all my preferences for all installed apps would be set for me. Bliss!

iWork.com

Schiller did say that iWork.com was free while it remained in beta. So once that service gets upgraded into something worth actually using (issues which range far beyond the scope of this article!) and Apple starts charging us to use it, it makes sense that all paying MobileMe subscribers should get unfettered access. Right?

iTunes in the Cloud

Imagine being able to synchronize your entire iTunes library (and I do mean everything in your library) to the cloud and then being able to access it over the web through any Internet-connected device. Would that be worth something to you? Say, $99 per year?

So there you have it — that’s my modest list. Ten simple suggestions for improving and expanding the MobileMe service that will make it a no-brainer for both Mac and PC users alike.

What do you think MobileMe needs to lift it from the doldrums? Share your ideas in the comments below, but, do me a favor -– resist saying “You’re crazy for paying when Gmail is free.” I know I’m crazy. But this isn’t about me.

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req’d):

Is It Time for the “Web OS”?

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