Locative Lab

researching locative media

How Hard is MobileMe Really “Pushing”?

Push in the bush? Or sync with less stink? Look at me! I'm Merlin, and I'm writing funny headlines!

Apple’s MobileMe Lacks True Push Syncing – InformationWeek

MobileMeAccording to many users, and as reported by numerous news outlets, Apple MobileMe’s implied promise of instantaneous sync between between multiple devices (including, it had been implied, your desktop Mac) is not accurate. Since it appears that syncing from the desktop to anywhere else in “the cloud” can actually take as long as 15 minutes, many are questioning Apple’s referring to this functionality as “Push” (as opposed to simply sped-up, automated “syncing”). Marin Perez of InformationWeek writes:

The gripe comes because data entered on their Macintosh or PC address books and calendars isn’t immediately pushed to MobileMe’s servers.

“Selecting Automatic in Mac OS X allows your computer to immediately sync and update when there are any changes on the MobileMe servers,” read a support note on Apple’s Web site. “Those changes 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’ every 15 minutes.”

You may have shared my slack-jawed gape and consequent fistbump when Phil Schiller’s WWDC demo of MobileMe [free iTunes link] implied magically fast, truly instantaneous syncing. Because that’s really hard to do well — and implying MobileMe would enable such a thing suggested mighty technological leaps over the previous .Mac service, whose sync skills and reliability were famously uneven at best.

While most of us won’t see our lives fall apart if true Push is not happening on MobileMe, it’s still disappointing that Apple implied they were solving a complicated and thorny problem vs. simply speeding up the frequency of syncing via an existing method.

FWIW, this weekend I informally tested MobileMe’s syncing skillz on two Macs, “the old iPhone,” and via apps on the MobileMe site. Mostly this consisted of creating calendar items with unique date and time stamps and seeing how long it took for them to show up on the different devices. Let’s just say the two Macs were, far and away, the pokiest syncers for both incoming and outgoing events.

Mostly I guess I’m just bummed that this wasn’t the sufficiently advanced technology that it seemed. I’m sure there’s room for improvements and enhancements to MobileMe — and God know what it took to get that thing out the door in the midst of last week’s shitstorm — but I’m disappointed in Apple. I don’t mind the RDF — a lot of times, it’s a fun place to hang out for an hour or two — but playing fast and loose with terms that mean something in the market they’re trying to penetrate is not cricket.

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Cityscape LocativeLab.org is Ronald Lenz's research website on locative & mobile media. This is mostly an archive of blogposts I find inspiring and interesting and an overview of my work. I'm a strategist, technologist and researcher in the field of Location-Based Mobile Services and work at Waag Society, a medialab in Amsterdam, The Netherlands where I head the Locative Media research program and at 7scenes, a platform for GPS games and tours as creative director. Picture 4 Find me at Twitter, LinkedIn or via ronald [at] waag [dot] org.

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