Monday 4 August 2008


Apple has escaped the botched launch of its MobileMe service largely unscathed. It's a sorry story of a monumental tech stuff up, an infatuated media and a woeful service response. It should make alarming reading for anyone dependent on email.

Apple's Iphone launch must be one of the most comprehensive hijackings of a fawning infatuated media by any company in the history of journalism. It's staggering. For weeks the Iphone's image has been more visible in the editorial pages of newspapers and on their websites than it has been in advertising. And it still hasn't stopped.

Apple's much vaunted "cloud" became ethereal for nearly two whole weeks for many users

The Iphone is impressive. But not that impressive.

I have a strange sympathy for the likes of Nokia, Samsung, Sony and Motorola all of whom make very good phones and have had models with similar features to the Iphone for more than a year.

But the real story of the media's unhealthy love affair with Apple concerns the launch of the company's new MobileMe software suite - the software companion that synchronises desktop email, calendars and more with the Iphone. Selling for $139AUD, MobileMe is the updated version of Apple's .mac email product. It's impressive in its ambition. It's implementation has been a disaster.

I have been a .mac customer for four years. My email account was down for almost two weeks. Communication and customer service were nonexistent. Apple in Australia pleaded that they had no information and there was no local service for the product.

The company was more concerned about maintaining public confidence in the intergrity of the MobileMe and keeping the Iphone juggernaut afloat than communicating openly with affected customers. It was assumed that the outage would last a day or two. Apple did nothing to advise of likely duration but the tiny coverage (a single line message) the issue received hidden well away in the user accounts section of the MobileMe page seemed to imply that the outage was a minor glitch that would be quickly addressed. At two weeks, the glitch was anything but minor.

As the outage approached a week, I became concerned about the status of messages received into my account during that week. Would they be lost?

It took Apple one week to start to engage in a meaningful way with affected customers on these issues. This followed ever increasing outbursts of anger and disgust on Apple's messageboards and other websites.

When Apple finally restored my service after twelve days, their new synchronisation system wiped four years of archived messages from my laptop. After nearly two weeks of no email, the wiping of my archive was too much. Remarkably though, on the fourteenth day, my archive was restored in full and MobileMe service has been working fine ever since.

The experience has raised some fundamental questions about the trust we bestow in our email service providors - not to mention the media that should be alerting us to the big issues.

Apple botched the launch of MobileMe and it barely rated a mention in the press. And the failed MobileMe launch was the story. It showed how vulnerable we are as we depend ever more on companies like Apple, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft to manage email - the backbone of so much of our personal communications. It also showed how remote and unaccountable Apple is when things go wrong.

And the Apple service is paid for. What standards can we expect from Google, Yahoo and Hotmail when their services are free?


  1. Weird. THat last comment was me...

  2. Hey Mark. Saw this post and thought of you.