I've gotten a ton of email about Apple substantially backing down from its initial claims about MobileMe's capabilities. (And not to be a jerk about it, I warned you: Unlike many people, I've used .Mac for years, and it was always a piece of @#$%. Why would MobileMe be much better?)

What it all boils down to, I guess, is the difference between "push" and "automatic sync."

I have to be honest, I think the differences are largely irrelevant, but Apple did over-promise on this one.

With "push," MobileMe information like contacts, email, schedules, and the like is kept up to date, in real time, between PCs, Macs, and devices (iPhones and iPod touches) which have been configured for this purpose. This was the promise Apple made.

With "automatic sync," MobileMe information like contacts, email, schedules, and the like is kept up to date between PCs, Macs, and devices (iPhones and iPod touches) which have been configured for this purpose. It's automatic, but it happens on a schedule, and not in real time. So it's technically possible, if unlikely, that a user could make two different changes to, say, the same contact, one on a PC, and one on an iPhone, and completely screw things up. This is what Apple actually delivered with MobileMe.

Like I said, the differences are subtle. Implicitly responding to complaints, Apple has actually changed the language used on its Web pages advertising MobileMe. This has resulted in more complaining. Fair enough.

Apple has a support page describing "automatic syncing," though I'm guessing you'll still see the term "push" used all over the place, including in the iPhone/iPod touch UI.

So...

Here's the thing.

I think most people here are hip to the fact that I need little incentive to criticize Apple. And yes, I feel that they've kind of blown it on this one by over-promising and under-delivering. You know, the kind of thing people are still freaking out over with Microsoft and Windows Vista, 18 months after the fact. I expect Apple to receive the same high-quality and fair-minded attention.

On the other hand, my suspicion is that Apple intended to deliver true push and leave that enabled by default on the iPhone/iPod touch. What happened, I think, is that they quickly found out that when a mobile device like that is continually polling for data on a wireless network, the battery life drains in real time. Certainly, that's the case with Exchange support over EDGE on the original iPhone.

So I think that most people, thinking calmly about this situation, would agree that it's better to have "sort-of" push (automatic sync) and have better battery life than it is to have "real" push and have horrible battery life.

Anyway, there are still huge and glaring issues with MobileMe without getting into this discussion. (Allow me to tell the hilarious story about how MobileMe just deleted one-third of my posted photo galleries without warning, for example.) I will keep following this, of course. In fact, I spent much of Sunday configuring MobileMe sync in a ton of different ways on different Macs, PCs, and devices, just to see how things work in different conditions. So far so bad.