Thursday, July 24, 2008

Apple fails the crisis test as MobileMess blows up

David Pogue is a sympathetic journalist, but even he has lost patience with Apple’s MobileMess flop. I hope Microsoft gets some kicks in, Apple clearly needs more pain.

In addition to seeing Apple’s executive failures in motion, we more education on how disastrous synchronization bugs can be.

Apple’s MobileMess - Pogue’s Posts New York Times Blog

… a strange note showed up on the MobileMe support Web site: “1% of MobileMe members cannot access MobileMe Mail. We apologize for this service interruption and are working hard to resolve the problem.”

Now, even if 1 percent is accurate, Apple has 2 million .Mac/MobileMe customers. So that’s at least 20,000 people…

… For most of them, the e-mail features of MobileMe just don’t work. The online Mail program at shows up empty; mail you try to send from your e-mail program never goes out; and messages sent to you get bounced.

For a few, it’s a lot worse. “This morning, I woke up and turned on my computer,” wrote one reader. “Happily, it seemed that the MobileMe e-mail service was back up. However, a few seconds later, when my computer synced with .Mac/MobileMe, ALL of my e-mail — every single e-mail I’ve ever sent, received, and filed on .Mac — disappeared. Every e-mail file on my hard drive (in the Mail library) was gone. I immediately went to to make sure that all my e-mail was still saved to Apple’s server. It wasn’t. All of the mail was gone.”

Apple escalated her case and dedicated top technicians to it, for which she was grateful. In the end, however, they recovered only 43 messages. The rest are gone forever…

… MobileMe tech support, my correspondents tell me, is nearly impossible to reach; the recording says that the support team is “unavailable due to the overwhelming interest in MobileMe.” (Somehow I doubt that “overwhelming interest” is the problem.) When you do reach them, they’re apologetic but can do nothing to help.

…the real problem is how Apple is responding. For a company that’s so brilliant at marketing, it seems to have absolutely no clue about crisis management…

…This is an airplane that’s stuck on the runway for hours with no food or working bathroom. And the pilot doesn’t come on the P.A. system to tell the customers what the problem is, what’s being done to fix it, how much longer they might be stuck, and how he empathizes with their plight. Instead, he comes on once every three hours to repeat the same thing: “We apologize for the inconvenience.”…

I wonder if people who’ve lost all their email have grounds for litigation. A nice class action suit might concentrate Apple’s mind. I also wonder how many of the victims are running an older version of OS X desktop (ex. 10.4).

Unlike Apple’s victims, I have backups, and I haven’t dared active email synchronization. My trial account simply forwards any MobileMe email I get.

Apple needs to grovel, and they’re not good at groveling.

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