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MobileMea Culpa: Apple Apologizes and Explains Tiger Situation

I accept your apology, but I’m speaking only for myself. Last week, Apple’s MobileMe team sent an email to all subscribers of the $99-per-year service, admitting that the transition from .Mac was rocky, and that they’re sorry about it. So sorry, in fact, that they’re tacking 30 days onto all current subscribers’ expiration dates. (I wrote about the botched .Mac-to-MobileMe transition in “MobileMe Fails to Launch Well, But Finally Launches,” 2008-07-12.)

Also, I received details from Apple on how Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger users will be able to use MobileMe services.

Here’s $8.25 for Your Troubles — The extension of a MobileMe subscription by 30 days – an $8.25 value – is a nice gesture of goodwill, even though it hardly covers the lost time I spent coping with sync problems. I like that Apple ‘fessed up and said sorry. It would have been more meaningful if they’d used standard English rather than marketing-ese, but you can’t have everything.

The 30-day extension is described in an extensive FAQ, the details of which show that Apple is trying quite hard to show their contrition. Anyone with an existing .Mac account as of 09-Jul-08 or who signed up for a new MobileMe account before 7 PM on 15-Jul-08 qualifies, even if your account expired (they’ve reactivated it), is about to expire, or you have a trial subscription. The new expiration date won’t appear in your account details for “a few weeks,” Apple writes.

Apple also said in the letter that they have been using the term “push” too broadly to describe MobileMe’s technology. In the context of events, contacts, and mail, push generally means that as soon as a change is made, a given device or computer is notified to receive the update if that device or computer is connected to a network.

With MobileMe, Apple had already received some criticism about labeling its desktop synchronization as push because changes lagged for up to 15 minutes. The iPhone and Web applications receive changes immediately, or, if the iPhone is off all networks, as soon as it resumes its access. Apple says it won’t use the term “push” for its desktop software until the software provides that actual feature.

In Tiger, It’s Still .Mac, Same Features — After I wrote about how to get updated MobileMe software under Mac OS X Leopard (you must first go to the .Mac preference pane before the Mac OS X for MobileMe 1.1 update will appear in Software Update), several readers asked whether this update would eventually be available for Tiger, too. The answer: no.

An Apple spokesperson forwarded several details to me about the Tiger transition. First, the 10.4.11 release is required; I discovered this earlier today when, during a power outage at my office, I attempted to use an old iBook that still sported 10.4.10. To use the MobileMe Web applications, you also need to download either Safari 3 for Tiger, or use either Mozilla Firefox 2 or 3. Tiger’s last bundled release was Safari 2.

All previously supported .Mac features that worked in Tiger will continue to work with MobileMe. Unlike the within-15-minutes synchronization noted above for Leopard, Tiger will sync only as frequently as every hour.

Apple posted a KnowledgeBase article with information for Tiger and Leopard users about how to set up or change email programs to work with addresses. To continue using old email addresses, which will work indefinitely, leave settings alone. To use a new MobileMe account or the address that .Mac users were also assigned, follow the instructions in the article.

Apple confirmed that Tiger will continue to show .Mac throughout; they plan no update to change the operating system’s terminology to read MobileMe.

MobileMe’s launch spelled an end of Apple-coordinated synchronization in Mac OS X 10.3 Panther, but, really, did it ever work well enough that someone is relying on it three years after Tiger was released? I hope not.

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