Strictly Commercial

August 11, 2008

MobileMe: What’s The Big Idea?

Filed under: Commercial, Technology — castlewriter @ 10:10 pm

As a new Mac user back in April, I was delighted by the .mac web service. I had Mail, Contacts, Photos, iDisk online storage, iWeb for web site hosting, Groups where i could connect to my friends in an intimately secured way, and iCards I could use to send loved ones a beautifully composed reminder that I?m thinking of them whenever the mood rolled over me. All was well with my online services.

Then, in late June, an announcement rolled out of Cupertino that .mac would receive a substantial upgrade — no, make that a complete overhaul for the end user — and become MobileMe. The booming voice out of Silicon Valley (which some say sounds like Charleton Heston?s Moses and others insist sounds a great deal more like James Earl Jones as Darth Vader) promised things like push email, push contacts, push calendaring, a la RiM?s Blackberry functionality. Push, push, push. Then we discovered that, oh, yeah, that push thing? Mmmm, not so much.

As a matter of fact, for many users, not only did email not push — it kinda got pushed, for awhile there. Pushed clean into the ether, to be specific. But let?s not get off on a tangent about the how?s of the transition. The big question here is the why:

What?s the big idea, Apple? Why drag long-time (and newly) loyal customers through the muck of Development Hell in a services transition that was very clearly not ready for prime time? MobileMe?s implementation was still so deep in growing pains it was practically sweating and whimpering in its first week of life. What was the rush? Well, here?s the short answer:

iPhone 3G.

The long list:

iPhone 3G
iPod Touch
A threadbare WWDC
Reaching out to multi-platform users who have a hybrid office of Macs and PCs, or have one at home and the other at work

First, iPhone 3G was touted as a revolutionary step in the company?s already-legendary handset, and from the available reviews, it seems that, premature as the fanfare is, it won?t be off the mark once the firmware catches up to the hype.

Next, iPod Touch on the 2.0.x iPhone firmware narrows the gap between iPod and iPhone even further, making a unified system of information exchange between devices even more powerful. That system needed to be there.

Skipping to hybrid households and offices, the Intel-powered, Unix-fueled (OS X 10.5 ?Leopard? is a Unix distribution now, after all) modern Mac lineup leaps and bounds more appealing to traditionally PC-exclusive market segments such as small businesses and even major corporations. After all, if Macs are good enough for IBM?s Research and Development suits, they?re good enough for John Q. Macs aren?t just for the 21st century Neo-Beatnik anymore. That system of information exchange suddenly needs to work beyond Apple?s hardware and reach into the Windows world.

Finally… this past World Wide Developer?s Conference. Not much was really happening there. The iPhone 3G was, in fact, almost flying solo. You could see it in Steve Jobs?s posture as he walked the stage this year: A little less peppy. A little less strut in his stride. There just wasn?t a lot to pony up and boast on. Besides the iPhone?s newest incarnation, we had… what? OS X 10.6 ?Snow Leopard?: One very small step for the OS, one giant yawn for Mac User-kind. This year?s WWDC was really just a very long event embracing one very significant but comparably small product announcement.

Something had to be polished off and readied for the lights — but fast. That something was MobileMe. A fine idea that needed a lot more time in the gym before it hit the stage. A month on and it?s getting smoother, but it still more sow?s ear than silk on some days. Oh, it?ll get there, and we?ll bear with it, because as Mac users, that?s what we do. Come to think of it, that?s what all computer users do, and Apple?s done more to fix it, faster and with more accountability, than — Ahem! — its largest competitor.

So how?s your Vista?

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