Inside iPhone 2.0: MobileMe Push Messaging

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Here's a look at how Apple transformed its .Mac service into MobileMe and why the launch failed so spectacularly. In a followup segment, we'll dive deeper into how MobileMe works, how it compares to competing services, how the service delivers push messaging to the iPhone 2.0 software, and whether it's worth the annual subscription price.



Inside iPhone 2.0: the new iPhone 3G Hardware (Last Thursday)

Inside iPhone 2.0: iPhone 3G vs. other smartphones (Last Friday)

Inside iPhone 2.0: the new iPhone 3G Software (Monday)

Inside iPhone 2.0:Â*iPhone OS vs. other mobile platforms (Tuesday)

Inside iPhone 2.0: the new iPhone App Store (Yesterday)

Inside iPhone 2.0: MobileMe push messaging (Today)



The new push messaging architecture in iPhone 2.0 is second in importance and relevance only to the Apps Store and the third party development behind it. Apple announced push messaging initially as being support for Exchange Server 2007 via ActiveSync, Microsoft's push messaging system that the company is advancing in an effort to steamroll RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server. However, just prior to the release of iPhone 2.0, Apple also unveiled its own push messaging service: MobileMe.



The origins of MobileMe



MobileMe is a rebranding of .Mac, which originally started out under the name iTools. Apple launched the original iTools service as a free internet services package at Macworld Expo in 2000. It included an email account, online storage, and access to a variety of web apps, including HomePage, a way to design simple web pages without knowing any HTML.Â*



The iTools package was intended to provide workplace-style networking services to users of Apple's Mac computers, in part to offset the removal of floppy drives that had started with the 1998 iMac, and in general to differentiate Apple's computers and create a sense of community among Mac users (below). The original package also included KidSafe, a selection of web sites, and iReview, a website rating service, both of which were subsequently dropped.



Two and a half years later, in mid 2002, Apple relaunched the service under the .Mac name and with an annual subscription fee. It added an online backup service and some new online web apps, including a way to create photo postcard emails from Apple's own stock photography or users' own photos. Apple also upgraded its online file servers to use the WebDAV standard, making it easier to share online files between Mac and Windows PC users.







The incremental progress of .Mac



Over the next half decade, Apple only introduced incremental advances to .Mac, leaving observers to wonder out loud why Apple wasn't chasing the brass ring of social networking or otherwise developing upon its .Mac services with the clear and obvious strategy that permeated the iPod, iTunes, Mac OS X, Mac hardware, or the company's retail efforts. Instead, the company pushed out regular but minor enhancements that slowly connected .Mac with its other services. For example:Â*

In early 2005, Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger was released with a Sync Services architecture that integrated with .Mac, allowing developers to sync their application's settings and data between a subscriber's computers. Â*

In October 2005, Apple introduced certificate-based encryption for iChat instant messaging for its .Mac users.

At Macworld Expo in 2006, Apple introduced a new version of iLife with iWeb, a desktop client tool for publishing web content to .Mac. The new iPhoto 6 also included a feature called Photocasting, for sharing an RSS photo feed with friends, who could also upload their own photos to albums.Â*

In October 2006, Apple released a new and improved AJAX webmail client for .Mac users.

In August 2007, Apple unveiled Web GalleryÂ*(below) as a .Mac feature to make it easier for users of the new iLife 08 suite to publish their photos and movies on the web, billing it as an alternative to burning DVDs for family and friends.

In October 2007, Apple released Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard with support for Back to My Mac, which registered .Mac-linked computers with Apple's Dynamic DNS to enable subscribes to access locally shared files on their home system while traveling.





.Mac becomes MobileMe



All of these services provided home users with capabilities commonly associated with business networks. It was therefore, in retrospect, a natural progression for Apple to announce this spring that .Mac would expand to include push email, calendar, and contact messaging features commonly associated with Exchange Server. Since this functionality was being aimed toward iPhone users, Apple removed the Mac-centric branding and launched the new services under a new name that suggested personal mobile networking features: MobileMe.



Apple also quietly dropped some features from .Mac that were not very popular, including .Mac Groups, intended as a community space for subscribers to collaborate. While existing groups will continue to work, it is no longer possible to set up new groups under MobileMe. The .Mac iCards and .Mac Slides Publisher, which converted photos into email postcards and a screensaver, respectively, are also missing from MobileMe.Â*



At one point, .Mac also bundled in a copy of McAfee Virex, although there were no viruses on the Mac for it to find. The buggy utility was finally yanked after it caused widespread problems. Apple also shipped its own Backup program, aimed at allowing users to regularly copy their files to their iDisk for safekeeping. However, Apple's Backup is at least as unreliable as Virex, and while it is still offered for download, it makes far more sense to backup files using Time Machine or simply manually copy them to an external drive on regular basis.



Most of MobileMe's services also now require at least Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, although its standard IMAP email, iDisk, and iWeb publishing still work on Mac OS X 10.3 Panther. MobileMe also introduced a new me.com domain, but existing .Mac uses will continue to be able to use both domains for email, iChat, and existing web URLs will continue to work.



On page 2 of 2: Things go awry; and Failure at launch.



Things go awry



Apple's stage rehearsal for the MobileMe launch occurred last fall with the rollout of the .Mac Web Gallery. That launch went smoothly, as it only added new features for the existing couple million .Mac users without causing any impact on their existing services. There were likely only a minority of .Mac users who even gave Web Gallery a cursory examination, and the media didn't focus much attention on the new product offering. However, it would serve as Apple's first public web app based on SproutCore, which was later used to develop the companion apps that make up MobileMe.



Unlike the Web Gallery introduction, the new MobileMe apps entirely replaced the existing .Mac web mail, the Address Book online contacts, online Bookmarks, and the file download site. It also introduced a new web calendar and upgraded the Web Gallery.Â*



Additionally, MobileMe was advertised in conjunction with the iPhone 3G launch and sold as a companion product to provide push messaging for the new phone. The new web apps, new iPhone 2.0 software, new demand, and the monumental transition were all hit by a series of problems that resulted in a spectacular launch crisis overshadowed only by the activation meltdown of the iPhone 3G itself.Â*



Failure at launch



Apple shut down its web mail services on .Mac before the new MobileMe apps were accessible, failed to accommodate the rush of traffic from users curious about the new apps, and even lost some users' emails during the transition. Other users experienced sync issues ranging from minor to serious, and even a couple weeks after the MobileMe launch, Apple's new online apps were still often sluggish to access.Â*







The tech media gleefully jumped on the offensive, accusing Apple of lying about its push messaging after deciding that "push messaging" required desktop client apps to also push up updates instantly. Push messaging usually refers to updates being sent from the server to a mobile device, but Apple's marketing suggested that MobileMe would also push messages to desktop clients in real time (rather than just regularly syncing them). Apple apologized for overstating the service's new features and said it would stop referring to the service as push until data could be pushed in both directions to and from desktop apps.



A big part of the launch problem was that Apple advertised the service too effectively, informing Joe Sixpack as to why he'd want push. That in turn created a mob that demanded the new service act as flawlessly as it appeared to in Apple's marketing materials. Had Apple launched the service like Google might, as an ad-supported product with a conspicuous beta tag reminding users that all bets were off, or as Microsoft might, as an unfinished Enterprise product that companies needed to roll out themselves with the help of an army of consultants, the launch problems Apple faced probably wouldn't have even been noticed.Â*



But they were, and in great detail. Some pundits demanded Apple shut down the new service, echoing their previous advice to shut down .Mac because they didn't see any purpose for it. By any account, the MobileMe launch was seriously botched. Earlier this week, Steve Jobs emailed Apple employees with a rundown on the launch problems, along with a hindsight plan for how MobileMe features could have been rolled out incrementally, and separately from the introduction of the iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0, and App Store. Jobs also noted that MobileMe should have been given "more time and testing" to meet Apple's standards.



While the launch of MobileMe certainly didn't go smoothly, the service itself is brilliantly well designed, both usable and attractive (despite some remaining flaws), and demonstrates the real potential of the future of web apps and web services. The next segment, which will kick off an entirely new series dedicated to MobileMe, will look closer at how Apple service works, and how it compares to competing services.



In the meantime, readers can find all six segments of AppleInsider's now completed "Inside iPhone 2.0" series on its own topics page.
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Comments

  • robin huberrobin huber Posts: 2,641member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The .Mac iCards and .Mac Slides Publisher, which converted photos into email postcards and a screensaver, respectively, are also missing from MobileMe.



    If anyone from Apple is following this, please bring back iCards. Pretty please.
  • pg4gpg4g Posts: 383member
    How on earth does this guy get away with a cursory look at the history of iTools, .Mac, and MobileMe... and calling that newsworthy?



    This is just plain stupid...



    Honestly...
  • ulmelqloulmelqlo Posts: 9member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    While the launch of MobileMe certainly didn't go smoothly, the service itself is brilliantly well designed, both usable and attractive (despite some remaining flaws), and demonstrates the real potential of the future of web apps and web services.



    Although I love this site and the analysis is often spot on, this article doesn't detail the real extent of MobileMe's continuing problems. Just go to the Apple MobileMe discussions forums and you'll see. I not only lost emails in the transition, but to this day my MobileMe email still does not push properly, the calendar syncing remains unreliable, and I have still not been able to sync all of my contacts. The support is a complete disaster, with users having to wait 1-1.5 hours sometimes just to chat with an Apple employee. Calling the service "brilliantly well designed", "usable" and "attractive" is ridiculous. Even Jobs himself has admitted that Apple has "a lot to learn" about these kinds of services. The criticism they have received is more than well deserved, as Apple has clearly bitten off more than it could chew.
  • nceencee Posts: 834member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ulmelqlo View Post


    Although I love this site and the analysis is often spot on, this article doesn't detail the real extent of MobileMe's continuing problems. Just go to the Apple MobileMe discussions forums and you'll see. I not only lost emails in the transition, but to this day my MobileMe email still does not push properly, the calendar syncing remains unreliable, and I have still not been able to sync all of my contacts. The support is a complete disaster, with users having to wait 1-1.5 hours sometimes just to chat with an Apple employee. Calling the service "brilliantly well designed", "usable" and "attractive" is ridiculous. Even Jobs himself has admitted that Apple has "a lot to learn" about these kinds of services. The criticism they have received is more than well deserved, as Apple has clearly bitten off more than it could chew.



    And I still say ? we the users still have to take some blame for this.



    If we didn't want the lastest and greatest ? yesterday, then Apple would be free to create and come up with software / hardware for the masses at a pace they could handle.



    I know, I for one, want the best, newest, coolest stuff - Now, and I like many others are paying the price for it now.



    The likely downside to this, is that Apple will now take more time to come up with, announce and make available all of the new cool stuff, onlt after they feel it is ready and that Apple is ready for the high demands for it.



    Skip
  • zagmaczagmac Posts: 72member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post


    If anyone from Apple is following this, please bring back iCards. Pretty please.



    I second that emotion.



    I do feel (slightly) better now that I have fuller picture of the evolution of the iTools (had never even heard of it, joining the Mac ecosystem in mid 2003), .Mac & MobileMe. I guess things come and go based on functionality and useage.



    But I still want my iCards back, Goddammit (Wow, thought the emotional impact of the loss was out of my system until that last word typed itself....)
  • abster2coreabster2core Posts: 2,497member
    Great job Kasper.



    I am sure you took a great deal of time researching and editing to develop this article.



    You must be quite a patient person. Sure wish a lot of your readers were as well.
  • asciiascii Posts: 5,363member
    I don't know how they are going to add Push to the Windows desktop apps, only Microsoft can do that. Unless they somehow make MobileMe mimic an Exchange server.
  • velvethammervelvethammer Posts: 4member
    I agree, no amount of emails, Status Updates, or Steve Jobs oversight has improved this program. I continually have issues and no one I've contacted at Apple Support seems to have a clue on what to do.



    As an Apple customer, and shareholder, I expect better.



    As we speak, I've been waiting an hour for a Support Chat session that has said my wait time is approximately 1 minute. That's after waiting four hours yesterday.



    Thank Jebus I only chose to use the trial. I'd be even more upset if I'd paid for this crap.
  • danacamerondanacameron Posts: 337member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ulmelqlo View Post


    Although I love this site and the analysis is often spot on, this article doesn't detail the real extent of MobileMe's continuing problems. Just go to the Apple MobileMe discussions forums and you'll see. I not only lost emails in the transition, but to this day my MobileMe email still does not push properly, the calendar syncing remains unreliable, and I have still not been able to sync all of my contacts. The support is a complete disaster, with users having to wait 1-1.5 hours sometimes just to chat with an Apple employee. Calling the service "brilliantly well designed", "usable" and "attractive" is ridiculous. Even Jobs himself has admitted that Apple has "a lot to learn" about these kinds of services. The criticism they have received is more than well deserved, as Apple has clearly bitten off more than it could chew.



    So should Apple concede defeat and give up on the whole thing?? This was a disastrous launch, but the disaster was not complete. MobileMe is still far from perfect, but I'm quite impressed with it's operation (despite occasional aggravations from glitches and/or sync problems) thus far and expect it will only improve (as will the performance of the iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software, App Store and Mac OS X as they all mature on their own and sync each other, and MobileMe).



    I for one am growing tired of hearing how horribly Apple rolled its latest new product and services out. Yes, Apple tried to do too much in too short a time. Okay! We all know that. Apple knows that! Apple has let everybody know that they know, and that they know that we know. Fine. Not to be entirely dismissive of your frustrations (I've been a .Mac member since 2003 and I've had my own frustrations with this launch), but can we move on now? This debacle wasn't Apple's proudest moment. At all. But the company is handling the situation with remarkable poise and dedication to make this not only right, but great! Having survived early adopter struggles numerous times in the past, I'm fully confident Apple will turn this around and these nightmare weeks in the summer of '08 will eventually fade into distant memory.



    Thanks for this series, AI! I particularly enjoyed the iPhone 3G comparison to other smartphones and will probably share this series with friends and colleagues who are possibly in the market for a new smartphone. I'm eager to read the next series that explores MobileMe more in-depthly. I hope the series features some type of roadmap (not merely idle speculation or unfounded predictions) of how Apple will be expanding upon and/or improving the service.
  • velvethammervelvethammer Posts: 4member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DanaCameron View Post


    I for one am growing tired of hearing how horribly Apple rolled its latest new product and services out. Yes, Apple tried to do too much in too short a time. Okay! We all know that. Apple knows that! Apple has let everybody know that they know, and that they know that we know. Fine. Not to be entirely dismissive of your frustrations (I've been a .Mac member since 2003 and I've had my own frustrations with this launch), but can we move on now?



    Ok then, how do you suggest we 'move on'? Say, "Thanks for taking a dump all over my Mac, PC and iPhone, Apple. But it's OK, we understand, everyone makes mistakes."?



    Admitting fault is not the way resolve a mistake you made. Offering a solution, alternative, or compensation is. They haven't done that globally yet.



    Your suggestion to just let it go is asinine and merely a reflection of what is wrong with our society as a whole at the moment.
  • chadisawesomechadisawesome Posts: 108member
    this article is ridiculous.



    first this paragraph is questionable:

    Quote:

    A big part of the launch problem was that Apple advertised the service too effectively, informing Joe Sixpack as to why he'd want push. That in turn created a mob that demanded the new service act as flawlessly as it appeared to in Apple's marketing materials. Had Apple launched the service like Google might, as an ad-supported product with a conspicuous beta tag reminding users that all bets were off, or as Microsoft might, as an unfinished Enterprise product that companies needed to roll out themselves with the help of an army of consultants, the launch problems Apple faced probably wouldn't have even been noticed.*



    call people excited about the launch "Joe sixpack" for whatever reason, and then to assume that people are wrong for, you know, expecting the service to work as advertised.



    then quick shots and microsoft and google. well, we know microsoft isn't good at rollouts, that's why we chose apple. and google has beta on top of all their stuff and it's free, so yeah, if things happen, we aren't paying for them, so we can't really complain about it. This is a product we are paying for, and have a right to be angry about.



    Then one paragraph to sum up two pages saying, "well mobile me is good now! (kinda) so hooray". gives absolutely nothing to the reader who was wondering how well it works now as something to get for his/her iphone. No review, no screenshots, no first hand impressions.... nothing... and that's the only reason to read the article. The history of mobile me, is just that... history.. the article was called: "Inside iPhone 2.0: MobileMe Push Messaging" and totally missed the mark.
  • wigginwiggin Posts: 2,054member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ncee View Post


    And I still say ? we the users still have to take some blame for this.



    If we didn't want the lastest and greatest ? yesterday, then Apple would be free to create and come up with software / hardware for the masses at a pace they could handle.



    I know, I for one, want the best, newest, coolest stuff - Now, and I like many others are paying the price for it now.



    The likely downside to this, is that Apple will now take more time to come up with, announce and make available all of the new cool stuff, onlt after they feel it is ready and that Apple is ready for the high demands for it.



    Skip



    I'm going to disagree to a point. None of us users even knew what MobileMe was until WWDC (I think that's when it was announced). Sure we've wanted an upgrade to .Mac, but we also want upgrades to the Mac mini, and a minitower Mac, and lots of other stuff. Apple doesn't (normally) pre-announce and/or promise stuff. So while we have hopes and desires, expectations are kept in check.



    But in the MobileMe case, Apple did pre-announce and make promises (ok, not really "promises", but you get the point). Apple is entirely responsible for setting those expectations and then failed miserably to deliver them. The points in the recent letter from Jobs about what they should have done could have been written by anybody experienced in big IT deployments the day after MobileMe was announced. Why did it take Apple until weeks after deployment to realized it? Every point in his letter was nothing more then the standard procedures any competent IT department would follow when deploying this type of system. It's as if Apple didn't have a single experienced manager leading the effort.



    If Apple has 2 million MobileMe subscribers, that's $200 million in subscription fees. I think for that they could have afforded to hire a few people who have done this sort of thing before.
  • ichickichick Posts: 2member
    I guess I'm one of the "few" who hasn't experienced major trouble with MobileMe. I first opened my iTools account in January 2000 and have been a regular subscriber to the service ever since. While there have been a few little hiccups along the way, I've been very very pleased with the service over the years. There is one thing for sure: Apple WILL fix the issues (maybe not as fast as we'd sometimes like!). They always do. That's why I'm a loyal customer.



    I have to say, tho, I do miss iCards as well. I found an app for my iPhone yesterday that works as a sort of substitute: SodaSnap. It's a little glitchy still, but it has great potential. The app is free, but I'd be willing to pay a nominal price for a few more features.
  • teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    MobileMe is the bastard child of the iPhone- plain and simple.

    Those of us who don't have the iPhone yet are Mac enthusiasts got screwed big time on this one. .Mac was fine as it was.
  • abster2coreabster2core Posts: 2,497member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by VelvetHammer View Post


    Ok then, how do you suggest we 'move on'? Say, "Thanks for taking a dump all over my Mac, PC and iPhone, Apple. But it's OK, we understand, everyone makes mistakes."?



    Admitting fault is not the way resolve a mistake you made. Offering a solution, alternative, or compensation is. They haven't done that globally yet.



    Your suggestion to just let it go is asinine and merely a reflection of what is wrong with our society as a whole at the moment.



    Do me a favor. Read this back to your mom. Or where you the only guy here that never had to be told to put the garbage out, make your bed or failed to call home and let your parents know where you were so they didn't have to worry all night.



    What is wrong in this society is the constant, continuous, redundant merciless disparagements without offering suggestion, recommendations or assistants to making it better.



    VelvetHammer, Your moniker suggests that you are only here to throw crap, and the attitude of your first time visits here, suggests that you have been banned in the past.
  • abster2coreabster2core Posts: 2,497member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by iChick View Post


    I guess I'm one of the "few" who hasn't experienced major trouble with MobileMe. I first opened my iTools account in January 2000 and have been a regular subscriber to the service ever since. While there have been a few little hiccups along the way, I've been very very pleased with the service over the years. There is one thing for sure: Apple WILL fix the issues (maybe not as fast as we'd sometimes like!). They always do. That's why I'm a loyal customer.



    I have to say, tho, I do miss iCards as well. I found an app for my iPhone yesterday that works as a sort of substitute: SodaSnap. It's a little glitchy still, but it has great potential. The app is free, but I'd be willing to pay a nominal price for a few more features.



    January 6, 2000 for me. And very pleased as well.



    However, my experience for iCards in the early days lead me away from using it in general. My corporate clients hated it because they found it slowed down their email services, and was particularly annoying for those who got a lot of emails. They didn't need or want the fluff. Keep in mind, the majority were using Windows 98.



    But just the same, I do know from our electronic email service providers, that many companies/business individuals still hate getting particularly unsolicited emails or faxes with pics. Right now I have two major accounts that ban any emails that contain images. Links-to are fine, otherwise, forget it.
  • abster2coreabster2core Posts: 2,497member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by teckstud View Post


    MobileMe is the bastard child of the iPhone- plain and simple.

    Those of us who don't have the iPhone yet are Mac enthusiasts got screwed big time on this one. .Mac was fine as it was.



    Teckstud: Most of your posts have criticised the iPhone, cell carriers and MobileMe, yet you don't and never had an iPhone. Why are you here?
  • chadisawesomechadisawesome Posts: 108member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by teckstud View Post


    MobileMe is the bastard child of the iPhone- plain and simple.

    Those of us who don't have the iPhone yet are Mac enthusiasts got screwed big time on this one. .Mac was fine as it was.



    you are crazy. .mac had terrible interfaces, slow as anything syncing with idisk, and it was well overpriced. mobileme has brought .mac to what it should be. and ADDED push capabilities if you have an iphone... if I didn't, I still would get mobile me, but because I do, it's even sweeter.



    I wish it synched call logs and sms messages too...
  • teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Abster2core View Post


    Teckstud: Most of your posts have criticised the iPhone, cell carriers and MobileMe, yet you don't and never had an iPhone. Why are you here?



    Because like maybe I had a .Mac account? Is that so hard to comprehend?
  • teckstudteckstud Posts: 6,476member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by chadisawesome View Post


    you are crazy. .mac had terrible interfaces, slow as anything syncing with idisk, and it was well overpriced. mobileme has brought .mac to what it should be. and ADDED push capabilities if you have an iphone... if I didn't, I still would get mobile me, but because I do, it's even sweeter.



    I wish it synched call logs and sms messages too...



    How did it bring it up to what it should be if it doesn't work properly?
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