I just received the following note that Apple sent to its sales force. In it, the company says that it will no longer use the "Exchange for the rest of us" slogan because MobileMe, unlike Exchange, does not really use push technology. This whole thing is unbelievable to me:

MobileMe Messaging Update

MobileMe messaging is being updated effective immediately. In order to set appropriate expectations with our customers, focus your sales discussion on "automatic sync" rather than "push." Additionally, we will no longer describe MobileMe as "Exchange for the rest of us."

When discussing the sync features of MobileMe, you may tell a customer that:

  • Updates between me.com and iPhone or iPod touch will occur in a matter of seconds.
  • Updates between me.com and Macs running Mac OS X Leopard and Windows PCs may take up to 15 minutes when MobileMe is set to sync automatically (Macs running Mac OS X Tiger may experience longer sync times).

As I noted previously, the distinction between "automatic sync" and "push" is sort of subtle and unlikely to affect most people. But Apple has a history of over-promising and under-delivering (Leopard's secret features, anyone?) and they get a total pass on this with the press. I don't get it, not now that the company is selling to a mass market. Microsoft would be skewered endlessly for doing something like this.

Exchange for the rest of us? More like "half-baked, partially-realized sync service that works better on Macs than it does on PCs, even though most  iPhone users have PCs." Granted, that's not much of a marketing slogan.

BTW ... speaking of the press and Apple, here's a great example of what I'm talking about. The New York Times' David Pogue, who, from what I can tell, writes an occasional column about digital cameras on the off weeks in which there's nothing Apple-related to discuss, appears to provide a well-rounded "review" of MobileMe in today's edition. But look at what's really happening here:

The magic is impressive. Make a change on your Mac, watch it appear on your iPhone and your PC. Add a new friend to the address book in Outlook Express on your Windows XP machine, and watch it appear in Windows Contacts on your Vista PC. Change an appointment in iCal on the kitchen Mac, and know that it will wirelessly sprout onto your traveling spouse’s iPhone four states away. And your Web bookmarks are the same everywhere.

OK, now let's pick it apart.

The magic is impressive. Make a change on your Mac, watch it appear on your iPhone and your PC ...

... up to fifteen minutes later. It's magic!

Add a new friend to the address book in Outlook Express on your Windows XP machine, and watch it appear in Windows Contacts on your Vista PC ...

... Again, up to fifteen minutes later.

Change an appointment in iCal on the kitchen Mac, and know that it will wirelessly sprout onto your traveling spouse’s iPhone four states away.

Notice that he switched from Windows to Mac on this one. There's a reason: On Windows, you have to pay at least $100 before you can sync calendars at all. There are only two Windows-compatible calendar syncing options available, despite the fact that Microsoft includes a free iCal clone in Windows Vista called Windows Calendar. Those two expensive options include Apple's own MobileMe service ($100 a year) and Microsoft Outlook ($110).

Now, granted, this is a MobileMe review, so he's talking about the very service you might be paying for anyway. But in carefully choosing his sync points above, Pogue is, in fact, also very carefully masking a huge problem with the iPhone and iPhone 3G: You can't sync calendars on Windows unless you pay extra for something else. This is why the phrase "Apple apologist" comes up with people like this. It's the appearance of fairness couched in what is really a promotion of all things Apple. Ignoring faults is a lie. Unless of course it's just ignorance. Which may be worse.

And your Web bookmarks are the same everywhere.

Are they now?

You want to know the truth about MobileMe on Windows? Here it is: Roughly 75 percent of all Windows users use Internet Explorer. And, sure enough, MobileMe syncs IE (and, cough, Safari) bookmarks. Neat. But the MobileMe Web interface—you know, the only way a Windows user can actually access the service's photo gallery, iDisk (without getting help), and help interfaces—doesn't work with IE, the browser that's used by most people on earth. In fact, Apple actually tosses up a nasty message when you try to use IE:

Cute, eh?

See, MobileMe only works with non-Microsoft browsers like Firefox and Safari. But get this: MobileMe won't sync your Firefox bookmarks at all. Crazy, right?

Kids, welcome to the halfway house that is Apple software running on Windows. You will never get the full meal deal unless you make the switch. And that, folks, is the unapologetic truth. The truth that reviewers like Pogue will never, ever mention, either because they don't know (i.e. they don't really use the systems that most of their readers use) or because they don't care (they're promoting Apple and its products).

Read it again:

And your Web bookmarks are the same everywhere.

So they're the same everywhere, if you use IE, in which case you can't access MobileMe. Or they're not the same everywhere because you use Firefox to access MobileMe and it doesn't support Firefox bookmark syncing. Curious that Mr. Pogue doesn't mention this. What does work, of course, is Safari: If you use only Apple products, everything works just fine. He does mention this:

Beware, though: you need the latest version of Firefox or Apple’s Safari Web browser to exploit all the features.

Except, of course, for bookmark sync. That won't work with Firefox.

Pogue even includes this insane little rah-rah sentence to explain away the IE stuff:

After all those years of being treated like an oppressed minority, it must give Apple some satisfaction to exclude Internet Explorer because it “has known compatibility issues with modern Web standards.”

Weird that every other Web site/application/service has no problem with IE 7. Weird.

Apple apologists will say I'm picking nits. But I'm not a Mac user, or a Windows apologist, I'm a Windows user. As, incidentally, are most iPhone users. As, incidentally, will be most MobileMe users. And when I discuss things like the iPhone and MobileMe, I do so from the position of someone who is part of the majority. And I'd like to know why it's OK for Apple to continually insult this majority crowd of its customers. Calendaring sync has been broken on Windows since the iPhone launched. It's still broken, unless you pay Apple $100 a year to fix it or happen to own Outlook.

Seriously, where is the outrage?

The magic is impressive. That's really all I'm saying here.