Apple's MobileMe users gripe about 'push' that isn't

Claim Apple misled them about sync from Macs and PCs

Some Mac users are calling foul after discovering that information entered on their Mac and PC calendars and address books isn't pushed instantly to the servers in the MobileMe "cloud."

Apple Inc., meanwhile, has posted a support document to its Web site acknowledging that applications on a PC, or on a Mac running Leopard, synchronize with MobileMe only once every 15 minutes. Macs running the older Mac OS X 10.4, a.k.a. Tiger, sync with MobileMe only once each hour.

Users have vented on Apple's own forums as well in comments on sites such as MacRumors.com, which posted a story early Monday on the brouhaha.

"It's really the desktop iCal and Address Book issue that's got everyone disappointed, though, because Apple didn't tell people it was only push one way down. Everyone understandably assumed that the desktop apps would push UP as well, based on Apple's marketing," said a user identified as "McToast" on a thread in Apple's MobileMe support forum Sunday. "But they don't."

Changes made to the iPhone's e-mail, address book or calendar are pushed almost instantly to the MobileMe servers, and entries added to or modified in the MobileMe Web-based applications push down to the iPhone at the same speed. Any changes that reach the MobileMe servers are pushed immediately to the user's Mac or PC, but on the upstream -- from Macs and Windows PCs to MobileMe -- there's a lag because of the best-speed-sync of every 15 minutes.

Apple confirmed the slower Mac/PC-to-MobileMe synchronization in a document published last week to the company's support database.

"Selecting Automatic in Mac OS X allows your computer to immediately sync and update when there are any changes on the MobileMe servers. Those changes can come from your iPhone, iPod Touch, the MobileMe Web site or another computer. Changes made on your computer will be synced to the MobileMe 'cloud' once every 15 minutes (or every hour in Mac OS X 10.4.11)."

Windows-to-MobileMe sync also occurs about every 15 minutes, Apple added in the document.

Most users contributing to the support forum were disappointed about the slower sync, and felt Apple misled them when it marketed MobileMe.

"This is definitely disappointing, and Apple's sales blurb is misleading if not downright wrong," said a user tagged as "keith.wilson" on the same thread as McToast. "They clearly state that 'when you make a change on one device, the cloud updates the others. Push happens automatically, instantly and continuously.' Whilst this is true for iPhones, iPod Touch and the new Web apps, it's not true for the Mac desktop applications."

"Disappointing to say the least," agreed another user, called "FarmacyMan."

Another user called out Apple for touting MobileMe as "Exchange for the rest of us," a phrase it's used since it unveiled the service in early June. "For comparison, I updated a contact on my PC-based Outlook application (Microsoft Exchange). In a few seconds, that record was updated on my BlackBerry," reported Jim Dever on the support forum. "I [would] like to give Apple the benefit of the doubt, but they must not have anticipated the reaction by those of us expecting to see MS Exchange-like functions in MobileMe."

Elsewhere, a Mac user posted a work-around on the hints and tips section of Macworld, a Computerworld sister publication, that outlined how to change the 15-minute interval by modifying a .plist file on a Mac.

This is the second dustup over MobileMe since it went live late last week. Then, customers griped about a day-long outage as Apple launched the new service and shut down its predecessor, .Mac.

MobileMe costs $99 for an single-user annual subscription. But although Apple initially let users sign up for a free 60-day trial last week, that offer has apparently been pulled.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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