- The Tech Night Owl — Cutting-Edge Tech Commentary - https://www.technightowl.com -

Sometimes Apple Admits It’s Wrong

As the fallout from the failed MobileMe launch continues to spread, I was a little surprised, Wednesday morning, when I got an email at my mac.com email Inbox from Apple on the subject. Yes, folks, I will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to use me.com instead.

After providing a brief summary about the litany of difficulties MobileMe users encountered, Apple admitted its fault, and offered an incentive to keep me on as a member: “We want to apologize to our loyal customers and express our appreciation for their patience by giving all current subscribers an automatic 30-day extension to their MobileMe subscription free of charge. Your extension will be reflected in your account settings within the next few weeks.”

Of course there are a few of the usual terms and conditions governing such offers, but the gesture is nonetheless encouraging and certainly reasonable given the situation.

At the same time, Apple “clarified” its claims about push support in MobileMe. Turns out that feature remains only partly functional. Says Apple in that letter: “changes made on a PC or Mac take up to 15 minutes to sync with the cloud and your other devices. So even though things are indeed instantly pushed to and from your iPhone and the web apps today, we are going to stop using the word “push” until it is near-instant on PCs and Macs, too.”

So should we call it half a push? Or a third of a push? Or did Apple’s marketing people simply push things a little too far?

Of course, a 15-minute delay isn’t really serious in the real world, but a claim is a claim, and I’m glad Apple is finally fine-tuning its message. Would they have done the same with the iPhone activation issues from last week. However, since your mobile phone bill is typically based on a bucket of minutes, a delay in being able to use those minutes is not, I suppose, as serious an issue. Besides, after the few hours of grief early iPhone 3G adopters suffered on the morning of its release, things have gotten reasonably efficient. I don’t think Apple is going to be forced to expect another one million sales on a single weekend until the launch of the iPhone 3G’s successor.

This isn’t to say that the iPhone 3G or the version 2.0 software are perfect. In fact, Apple has already done a “silent” upgrade of the firmware, from build 5A345 to 5A347, and there are unconfirmed reports that a version 2.0.1 is already making the rounds among beta testers.

If your iPhone has the 5A345 software, which you can determine by checking its General preference panel, under the About category, I recommend you do a Restore right away to install the update. While I don’t know if the alleged yellow-tinted screen issue is necessarily resolved, I have experienced more stable performance since the upgrade. Among the most notable examples: AIM is not as apt to quit, and that slow text entry issue I encountered in Mail is now history.

On another front, I’m sure I’m only a small part of the chorus in hoping for some more new features when Apple gets around to it. Take cut, copy and paste, the basic Mac OS editing features we’ve all enjoyed for 24 years. Apple VP Greg Joswiak is now quoted as admitting that these critical capabilities is on their “to do” list, but they haven’t gotten around to it yet. Other matters carried a higher priority.

Maybe so, but I tend to think this is something that’s so basic to the text manipulation experience that I can’t imagine why it’s not extremely high on that list. Or maybe there are serious issues involved in implementing such a feature with a touch-screen interface, and Apple’s software engineers are even now searching for a viable solution.

Then there are a few more fundaments, such as why horizontal rotation is yet to be supported in Mail. Certainly writing a message is one of the essential functions of a smartphone, and I should think that, having mastered this capability with browsing, the Calculator app and games, certainly the fact that it’s needed with email isn’t lost on Apple.

Or maybe it’s another one of those things on Apple’s list that they haven’t had time to complete. But I’m still happy not to cut them any slack on these things. Surely they realize that tons of iPhone users have been clamoring for these and other features on their personal wish lists. So what’s the real timetable, Greg?

Maybe I should get him on the tech radio show and ask him. He was, after all, one of our first guests back in 2002, and has always been a great interview. Then again, he isn’t going to reveal anything that strays outside of their carefully-crafted playbook, so maybe it’s an exercise in futility.

In the larger scheme of things, the tech pundits will carp for a while longer, gleefully denigrating Apple’s huge failures in getting its MobileMe and iPhone 3G launches right. What about the long-term damage to the company’s reputation for superior reliability, they’ll claim? Well, I have no idea if this launch could have been handled better or not. Whatever you think, server resources are finite. Apple may simply have miscalculated the demand, or encountered issues that they couldn’t predict in advance.

Or maybe Steve Jobs has already shown a few server administrators to the door because of their major screw-ups. We might never know, although there just might be a few resumes around that list Apple’s IT department as a recent gig.