Making the switch (again?)

Over the past few weeks, I have real­ized that I love MobileMe when I’m using my iPhone or my laptop, but I absolutely hate it when I am using these ser­vices via my web browser. 

You see, the MobileMe ser­vice basi­cally offers a hand­ful of things that you can get on the web for free, but they have done a good job of pack­ag­ing them into a Mac/iPhone cen­tric way that just ‘makes sense’. If you change a con­tact on your iPhone, it is nearly instantly reflected on any other com­puter you have. Add or remove a cal­en­dar entry? It’s reflected on any number of machines that you use. Change a book­mark on your laptop? It’ll be changed on your work com­puter, iPhone, and any other com­puter you use next time you use it. This is a really amaz­ing thing that has, over the past six or so months, become some­thing I have taken for granted. 

It goes with­out saying that it’s also a push-​based IMAP mail ser­vice. On top of that, you are able to sync things like saved pass­words, mail set­tings, ftp logins/passwords (thanks to the Panicguys!), and more. All of these fea­tures, along with a 20gb web stor­age space that I gen­er­ally store lots of things on (gen­er­ally doc­u­ments I might need while out and about but aren’t what I’d call ’secure’ either), and $99 for a year isn’t that bad of a deal.

Failure to deliver

While I am at work, I depend on the web­site to allow me to check my email, update con­tact infor­ma­tion, access files from any­where, and I expect to be able to do this reli­ably and quickly. That’s where the prob­lem lies. The web-​based soft­ware is just a mess. Things take dozens of sec­onds to load at times. The UI is not intu­itive – there is no feed­back when you click on some but­tons, but others do have feed­back. There is no rich text editor for com­pos­ing emails. Some­times, when you read an email then return to the mail index, adja­cent emails are now marked as read. Simple things like “keep me logged in for two weeks” does not work reli­ably so I am forced to log in repeat­edly over the course of the day. These may be first world prob­lems, but when you are paying money for some­thing, you expect it to work at least as well as the free com­pe­ti­tion does. 

Hon­estly, I’ve always been strug­gling with iTools, .Mac, MobileMe (what­ever you want to call it). It always sounds so much better than it actu­ally could be, but it’s gen­er­ally just good enough to make you stick around. MobileMe suc­ceeds every­where but the web-​based space. Using MobileMe mail, con­tacts, etc is a pain. They have tried too hard to shoe­horn desk­top metaphors into a web based world and it simply doesn’t work well. I think that Apple has invested way too much into sell­ing the plat­form and using it to push OS X to turn away from this approach and come up with a fast load­ing, easy to use solution.

Switching to free services

With all of that com­plain­ing out of the way, I have con­sid­ered switch­ing from the MobileMe ser­vice to free ser­vices like Gmail (using google apps to check my mail), Google Cal­en­dar, Drop­box for file sync between plat­forms, and saving myself $99 a year. Then of course I start think­ing about issues with Gmail’s IMAP (which they have kind of addressed with more advanced IMAP con­trols), the fact that I would no longer be able to sync key­chains, Trans­mit favorites, desk­top wid­gets, or use Omni­Fo­cus the way I cur­rently do (I cur­rently use the iDisk to sync Omni­Fo­cus between my laptop, my iMac, my iPhone and my work computer).

What is the solution?

Again, first world prob­lems to be sure, but I am torn. Is saving $99 and get­ting a better web expe­ri­ence a fair trade in exchange for a slightly worse expe­ri­ence on the desk­top and iPhone? If I aban­don the push ser­vices of MobileMe, I would only be able to sync my book­marks, cal­en­dars and con­tacts when I man­u­ally sync my iPhone to my laptop (which I do not do very reg­u­larly). I spend 8+ hours a day at work using web-​based solu­tions to com­mu­ni­cate with people, and the MobileMe web solu­tion just isn’t cut­ting it. But I also spend a lot of time on my com­put­ers at home and using my iPhone out and about. I’ll prob­a­bly wait and see what Apple has to offer at Mac­world tomor­row and make a deci­sion shortly there­after. I could see fur­ther inte­gra­tion with iLife 09 (assum­ing some­thing like that is announced), fur­ther inte­gra­tion with the iPhone 2.3 or iPhone 3.0 soft­ware, or simply promised improve­ments when Snow Leop­ard comes out this year.

So after all this rant­ing, no solu­tion just yet. Stay tuned to the saga.

Ok, now what?

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