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Apple Claims MobileMe Mail Fully Restored

Apple’s mysterious David G., apparently a member of the MobileMe product team (and possibly a relative of saxophonist Kenny G), tells us in a post last week that the 1 percent of MobileMe users stranded without access to archived mail since 18-Jul-08 – but with the ability to send and receive new mail since 25-Jul-08 – should all be back in action.

Mr. G. says that any remaining email problems should be unrelated to this issue. Apple established a chat line for remaining mail problems, but says it should only be used for these problems. Their regular chat line, which I used last week, has a 30-minute wait time.

I’ve critiqued Apple about the MobileMe launch fiasco a number of times in the last few weeks; how would I have handled it? I’ve been in situations with much smaller numbers of customers or clients where outages have occurred, and worked with firms that have gone through such outages (as a customer or client).

  1. MobileMe’s launch should have been delayed. Steve Jobs clearly told the team it needed to be ready for the 11-Jul-08 launch; it was not. They probably knew this. No one said, “We need to delay MobileMe.”
  2. MobileMe’s launch should have been staged. First, iPhone 3G owners should have had access when signing up for new accounts. Then iPhone 3G and original iPhone owners with existing .Mac accounts or who wanted new accounts should have been given access. Then a slow transition for users who weren’t interested in the sync changes could have happened over weeks.
  3. When the outage affecting 1 percent of users was discovered, Apple should have realized that the problem was likely to take longer than a few hours to resolve, and acknowledged the critical nature of email to people’s businesses and personal lives.
  4. Apple should have immediately posted a page for affected users – and distributed information through Mac news sources – where users could enter a forwarding address to receive email during the outage. They should also have offered to set up clean new accounts on either MobileMe or even a competing service to handle email for the duration of the outage.
  5. Once the outage was over, Apple could have worked with their customers to merge their two separate archives of email messages, let people import old mail archives, or what have you. It wouldn’t have been pretty, but it would have been better than a week without access to new email or outgoing email.

Essentially, Apple waited a week to provide fresh, identically named accounts for those without email, restoring email from that missing week. Over the last week, they merged archived messages into those new accounts. They could have made that decision earlier and been seen as very responsive, saving thousands of people days of frustration.

By refusing to acknowledge the problems in public for as long as they did, Apple has instead annoyed numerous customers (to put it mildly) and come off as arrogant and incompetent.

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