Microsoft plays catch up to MobileMe with My Phone

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Microsoft's answer to portions of Apple's MobileMe service was expected to be called SkyBox, but the company is now rebranding the mobile data sync service as My Phone, according to pages posted to the company's Windows Mobile website.



The original SkyBox name was supposed to connect the service with a variety of other planned services the company is getting to roll out, including SkyLine (SkyBox for businesses), SkyMarket (Microsoft's answer to the iPhone App Store for Windows Mobile), and SkyDrive (an online disk service similar to Google's GDrive or Apple's iDisk service in MobileMe). Of those plans, SkyDrive is the only one that is already live (it is the rebranded version of what Microsoft once marketed as LiveDrive).



The rebranding of SkyBox to My Phone (as in "rhymes with iPhone"), as well as the blue globe graphic Microsoft is using for the service (below), certainly call to mind the iPhone and Apple's .Mac branding. Of course, the My Phone service will work exclusively with modern Windows Mobile 6 devices, just as MobileMe only works with the iPhone/iPod touch. That has many tech sites calling My Phone "Microsoft's MobileMe," though the new service isn't identical to MobileMe in features.



Microsoft My Phone vs Apple MobileMe



While both services offer to sync settings, contacts, and calendar data, as well as present a web interface for accessing and editing the same data, My Phone also serves as an online version of some of the features of iTunes, allowing it to backup the entire phone device to the cloud and then restore that image to a new phone. My Phone also plans to offer to sync photos taken by Windows Mobile phones to its online service, similar to how the iPhone can upload photos to a MobileMe gallery.



In contrast, MobileMe delegates the task of full phone backups to iTunes, and full desktop photo sync to iPhoto, using a USB cable for both. Microsoft warns that "the data plan you have with your mobile operator may require you to pay data-transfer charges when you use the service," something that iPhone users backing up to iTunes or syncing with iPhoto over USB wouldn't incur. USB is also several hundred times faster than mobile 3G networks, and is not subject to poor signal problems or dropped service connections.



A future version of My Phone plans to expand the service to also allow users to "change ringtones, backgrounds and manage their mobile apps, music and video all from the cloud," according to a ZDNet report. That would move even more of the tasks currently performed by iTunes for the iPhone into an online cloud service. Currently, in addition to MobileMe data sync, Apple lets users download and buy mobile software and music and videos via the cloud with the App Store and iTunes icons directly on the phone, but manages other data on the iPhone using desktop apps.







The sky's not the limit



Microsoft's information page also says it "does not charge a fee for the My Phone service at this time," (the service plans to support itself by running ads on its web pages) while Apple charges $99 per year for MobileMe. However, Apple also gives MobileMe users ad-free web pages and 20 GB of disk space for combined email, file hosting, and data sync, while Microsoft only plans to provide 200 MB in its My Phone service. The company's separate SkyDrive/LiveDrive service currently offers gigabytes of free disk storage, but it can't be combined or used together with My Phone.



As the company's site explains, "Your Microsoft My Phone account gives you 200 MB of free storage on the Microsoft My Phone web site. If a synchronization would result in exceeding this limit, you will receive an error message on your phone and your account on the My Phone web site will only include information received prior to reaching this limit. Any files in excess of this limit will not be saved."



While 200 MB might be plenty of space for backing up a phone image along with calendars and contacts, it does not represent very much email for the typical user, who can easily have multiple gigabytes of mail. My Drive also syncs data files on Windows Mobile phones, which would quickly eat up disk space on the cloud. However, by default, it will only sync files saved internally to the phone itself, and not any files copied to memory cards, according to Microsoft's information page. Since most Windows Mobile phones offer very little built in storage, that might limit how much space in the cloud users might think they need. Any way you slice it though, 200 MB isn't very much space in 2009, even for a mobile device.



No push synchronization for My Phone



Apple's MobileMe rollout last fall was marred by complaints over its push messaging services, which users complained only pushed instant updates between the web and the iPhone and down to desktop; updates made on the desktop could initially take as much as 15 minutes to find their way back up to the cloud. However, Microsoft's My Phone service doesn't push immediate updates at all. There is no word on how the service will sync to desktop applications at all, but mobile devices will only be updated once a day, at night by default. Users will have to force an update to get updates made on the web to show up on the phone faster than an overnight courier might deliver them.



As the site explains, "Microsoft My Phone will automatically synchronize information between your mobile phone and your Microsoft My Phone web account once per day between 11:00 P.M. and 5:00 A.M., except when you cannot connect to your default data network - for example, when your phone is turned off, out of range, or roaming. You can also back up your data manually at any time by selecting Sync in the Microsoft My Phone application."



The iPhone also allows users to optionally turn on push sync with email, contacts, calendar, and bookmarks separately, depending on their needs. The more data that is being kept in sync, the more frequently the phone will be updated and therefore the more the battery will be hit. Apple also allows users to change MobileMe's push sync to manually fetch data every 15 or 30 minutes, hourly, or daily.



No desktop sync details for My Phone



As with MobileMe, phones that sync to My Phone can't also sync the same data to Exchange Server; in either case, phones configured to sync with Exchange will only sync their Exchange calendar and contact items with Exchange, and not with data on other services. The strangest omission on Microsoft's site however, is any mention of how the My Phone service will connect to the company's desktop applications.



Without using its own Exchange Server infrastructure to manage the sync, it appears Microsoft is planning to only provide web access to My Phone users' data, and provide no conduit to Outlook or Vista's Windows Mail and Calendar at all. There's also no mention of using My Phone in conjunction with desktop applications to keep data in sync everywhere, meaning all updates will have to happen over the mobile data network.



Microsoft's separate SkyMarket mobile software service, which is not expected to open until late this year, is similarly expected handle software purchasing and updates over the air only, with no equivalent to Apple's iTunes for browsing, purchasing, or backing up mobile applications from the desktop.



With MobileMe, Apple uses Sync Services on Mac OS X to sync updates to its own apps (as well as any third party Mac apps that plug into Sync Services), and it also installs sync support on Windows as part of iTunes, which updates synced MobileMe data with both any mobile devices used on the PC as well as Windows applications such as Outlook, Outlook Express, and Windows Contacts.



No connection to existing email accounts for My Phone



Apple's smaller teams working on MobileMe, iTunes, and the iPhone work with closer contact and within a central strategy managed by a smaller executive team, compared to Microsoft's wider focus and broader strategies in parallel development within the company's various divisions, as well as in incorporating some of the company's many acquisitions.



Apple's MobileMe originated as .Mac, an email, web hosting, and online disk space account combined with a way to sync information between multiple Macs via Apple's servers. With the name change to MobileMe, Apple added the ability to push updates to mobile devices (the iPhone and iPod touch), made it easier to sync data to Windows PC applications, and enhanced the web applications than provide online email, calendar, contacts, file management, and photo and video sharing on the web. Along the way, Apple upgraded existing users and provided them with a fairly seamless upgrade plan (although many users did run into problems during the transition).



In contrast, My Phone is just one of many overlapping services being promoted by different divisions of Microsoft. The My Phone/SkyBox service didn't originate within Microsoft, but is based on MobileKeeper Backup & Restore, MobileKeeper Sharing & Communities, and Active mTicker software the company acquired in buying up Portuguese developer MobiCorp last summer.



My Phone has no apparent connection to Microsoft's Live Mesh and Windows Azure, the cloud computing platform Microsoft is gearing up to provide to third party developers. It also has no integration with Live Hotmail, so users with a Microsoft email account won't be able to sync their contact data with My Phone. "If you have Windows Live installed on your phone," the company's site notes, "it will synchronize your Windows Live contacts with the Windows Live web site, and My Phone will synchronize your other contacts to your account on the My Phone web site."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,708member
    I guess you can't beat free of charge, but currently I don't see this as a competitor to MobileMe. I think they still got a lot of catching up to do as it stands right now. Its lacking too many features.
  • Reply 2 of 35
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,868member
    Next they will have a suit of apps called My Life and M$ Works will be renamed My Work not to mention a music app called My Tunes. Apple should have seen this coming.
  • Reply 3 of 35
    hexorhexor Posts: 57member
    Are they that scared of getting rid of Ballmer that they allow him to continue to do stuff like this?
  • Reply 4 of 35
    I'm surprised they didn't spell it m'iPhone. Then again, they should have called Windows sMacintosh.
  • Reply 5 of 35
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    Microsoft should change it's name as well.



    Maybe something like...



    Apple 2... or



    Apple too... or



    The Unoriginals (a take from "The Untouchables")... or



    Paper Trail (a take from "Paper Moon")... or... well, chime in with your thought or suggestions....



    Next, they will need a new catch phrase, a slogan that signifies the efforts of Microsoft...



    "Ideas?! We don't need no stickin' ideas. We'll just get them from our competitors"... or



    "Say 'ello to my little friend"... (Apple's logo emerges)...



    Chime in y'all!
  • Reply 6 of 35
    buckbuck Posts: 293member
    My OS, My Life, My Experience. It's "My" (TM), from MyCrosoft.



    "So it's pretty easy to use, huh?"
  • Reply 7 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post


    Microsoft should change it's name as well.



    Maybe something like...



    Apple 2... or



    Apple too...

    ....

    Chime in y'all!





    Word on the street is that they're planning on changing their name to "Mapple."
  • Reply 8 of 35
    Microsoft is a collection of empty suits and are not capable of any original thoughts, ideas, or products.
  • Reply 9 of 35
    Backing up your phone data to the cloud is a pretty good idea. It'd have to be secure though..
  • Reply 10 of 35
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,708member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Shookster View Post


    Backing up your phone data to the cloud is a pretty good idea. It'd have to be secure though..



    That is...unless you have a lot of data to backup....
  • Reply 11 of 35
    virgil-tb2virgil-tb2 Posts: 1,416member
    Nothing Microsoft does will make a difference to Apple's competitive position until they change to a vertically oriented attack. They are already backing off on that "end to end" experience Balmer was blathering on about last year.



    The best thing they could do is spin off a brand into a new completely separate subsidiary that operates the same way that Apple does (Zune Corp.?), disassociate themselves from the ailing MS and Windows brands and start fresh.
  • Reply 12 of 35
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,589member
    Too early to really have an opinion, but from the article My Phone appears to become a great advert for mobileMe. I still think mobileMe is overpriced and it is not feature complete - oh, and the web interface is still too slow, but it works pretty well now for me now. It is a seamless service that works in the background without me ever really having to think about it. I get the feeling My Phone will fall very short of mobileMe in most respects.
  • Reply 13 of 35
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    Too early to really have an opinion, but from the article My Phone appears to become a great advert for mobileMe. I still think mobileMe is overpriced and it is not feature complete - oh, and the web interface is still too slow, but it works pretty well now for me now. It is a seamless service that works in the background without me ever really having to think about it. I get the feeling My Phone will fall very short of mobileMe in most respects.



    I hope this pushes Apple to add more services to MM and increase the usabilty of the ones it does have. I think the cloud 'backup' is foolish, especially when it won't even sync your contacts and calendars more than once a day.



    I don't mind paying $70/year for MM (though I am set for 3 years for a Family Pack at $70/year. Woot!) to be without adverts, I do see that many don't mind ads so long as it is free of charge.
  • Reply 14 of 35
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,589member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I hope this pushes Apple to add more services to MM and increase the usabilty of the ones it does have. I think the cloud 'backup' is foolish, especially when it won't even sync your contacts and calendars more than once a day.



    I don't mind paying $70/year for MM (though I am set for 3 years for a Family Pack at $70/year. Woot!) to be without adverts, I do see that many don't mind ads so long as it is free of charge.



    Yes - the use of ones own domain name would be great for mm (the feature I would like to see the most). What features would you like to see added to mm? One thing I would like to see is an easier way to access another id from a single local computer. At home we don't really have separate id's on the main Mac and each time I change the setting to access a different mm id (we also have family package), the local folder is lost and the whole process seems too convoluted. I guess an easy answer would be to set up separate id's on the Mac, is that what you do?



    $70.- is not bad and I don't mind paying but it should be half of that, or less. I do believe mm could be a major selling point for new Mac owners but at $70 + it is to expensive, even if it is good value.
  • Reply 15 of 35
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    Yes - the use of ones own domain name would be great for mm (the feature I would like to see the most). What features would you like to see added to mm?



    I doubt that private domain hosting will happen, though it would be nice. Apple added export to a private domain to iWeb a couple revisions ago. I think that is the best you can hope for from Apple on this front.



    The feature I would really like to see for MobileMe would be in Snow Leopard. The iDisk setup is a bit archaic. Having to drag-and-drop everrything I wish to save in the cloud to that networked folder is a pain. I wish that the Get Info of items and fodlers in Snow Leopard would have an option to sync to MM. This could be demostrated by a tag on the icon to show that it is a synced item. It would also mean that I wouldnt' have to manually move files to the iDisk to back them up on the cloud, which would allow for more natural organization of items with Finder. This would also require the very slwo iDisk syncing be fixed. FTFiD



    Quote:

    I guess an easy answer would be to set up separate id's on the Mac, is that what you do?



    That is exactly what I'd do, as well as turn on the Guest Account. This allows each setup to be personalized and protected. Though any Admin could setup parental controls if their are children in the home.



    Quote:

    $70.- is not bad and I don't mind paying but it should be half of that, or less. I do believe mm could be a major selling point for new Mac owners but at $70 + it is to expensive, even if it is good value.



    Right before the switch to MM I found a deal online that was selling the .Mac Family Pack at the single user price. I stocked up. I'm guessing others did too as a few days later the price jumped back to the normal price. I'm sure it was a misprint on the seller's part. Old .Mac codes work for MM so buying on eBay isn't a bad way to go.



    The price isn't bad for what you get. Last year I tried to put together similar services and the price wasn't close. Apple's product and services is still cheaper, even without considering the client-side apps that tie in to the product and the all-in-one ease of use. However, not everyone needs these things so the value may be unwarranted, but those looking it as simply $99 for email or $99 for web hosting just looking at the whole package.
  • Reply 16 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Virgil-TB2 View Post


    Nothing Microsoft does will make a difference to Apple's competitive position until they change to a vertically oriented attack. They are already backing off on that "end to end" experience Balmer was blathering on about last year.



    The best thing they could do is spin off a brand into a new completely separate subsidiary that operates the same way that Apple does (Zune Corp.?), disassociate themselves from the ailing MS and Windows brands and start fresh.



    I guess this guy hasn't heard. Microsoft has more than 80% of the computer market, microsoft has more than 50% of the business market for mobile phones, and they just reached 500 million subscribers to their new windows live features in January. Microsoft will surpass MobileMe very quickly. The question is whether or not it will actually be better or not. Business can hope it's not as buggy as MobileMe.
  • Reply 17 of 35
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,589member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    That is exactly what I'd do, as well as turn on the Guest Account. This allows each setup to be personalized and protected. Though any Admin could setup parental controls if their are children in the home.



    OK - what do you do you mean 'turn on guest account'? What does this do?



    Quote:

    I doubt that private domain hosting will happen, though it would be nice. Apple added export to a private domain to iWeb a couple revisions ago. I think that is the best you can hope for from Apple on this front.



    I would like to consolidate my private stuff under my personal domain. Apps for Domains is fine but I have so many control panels to deal with I always look to consolidate. If MM supported domains I could drop Apps and have one less separate virtual entity to deal with.



    Quote:

    The price isn't bad for what you get.



    Agree, and I am not complaining. It just seems a somewhat wasted opportunity. It seems to me mm should be a permanent loss leader for Apple. That and iWorks.com. But they do the math. Maybe they should have an optional 'light', ad supported model.
  • Reply 18 of 35
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by paxman View Post


    OK - what do you do you mean 'turn on guest account'? What does this do?



    In your user settings, you can turn on a Guest Account so that guests can use your Mac without using your private account. This keeps your stuff private and prevents them from doing anything damaging to your system.



    Quote:

    It seems to me mm should be a permanent loss leader for Apple. That and iWorks.com. But they do the math. Maybe they should have an optional 'light', ad supported model.



    Apple doesn't like loss leaders.
  • Reply 19 of 35
    Wow, why do I feel like I live in a crazy mixed-up world? Did China purchase Microsoft when I was sleeping? Didn't Apple go after a company selling "MyPod" knock-offs?
  • Reply 20 of 35
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,589member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    In your user settings, you can turn on a Guest Account so that guests can use your Mac without using your private account. This keeps your stuff private and prevents them from doing anything damaging to your system.



    Gotcha - I do that

    Quote:

    Apple doesn't like loss leaders.



    True - and they are notorious for making their own minds up, petulant losers, as they are . There is an interesting 1985 interview with SJ that you might enjoy if you haven't already read it. http://www.playboy.com/magazine/inte...even-jobs.html It goes a long way to demystify Apple's mindset. People always harp on about number here, how Apple should do this and that in order to sell more Macs. SJ has always said he is not interested in numbers and this interview explores this, among other things.
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