Apple Web service falters amid iPhone buildup

Image: iPhone
Apple is offering a $99-per-year service that lets people view, update and sync e-mails, calendar appointments and contacts across iPhones, Macs and Windows PCs. But the transition to the new service was not entirely
/ Source: The Associated Press

Apple Inc.’s new data synching service got off to a rocky start Thursday, as some users were denied access to their accounts just hours before the next-generation iPhone is slated to go on sale.

MobileMe, as the $99-per-year service is called, will let people view, update and sync e-mails, calendar appointments and contacts across iPhones, Macs and Windows PCs. Like its predecessor, Apple’s .Mac, MobileMe also lets users store and share files over the Internet.

Apple has said it will begin selling MobileMe on Friday, as the speedier second version of its iPhone hits store shelves.

Existing .Mac users got word via the .Mac home page earlier in the week that the site would be offline from evening until midnight Wednesday, as their data was moved over to the MobileMe system.

But by Thursday afternoon, blogs devoted to Apple news and rumors were clogged with messages from people who couldn’t log on to either account using their Web browser.

Apple did not detail exactly what had gone wrong.

“The MobileMe transition is under way but is taking longer than expected,” Bill Evans, an Apple spokesman, said in an interview. “The new Web applications are not yet online but the rest of the service is up and running.”

More than 80 people responded to a post on the outage by Robert Palmer, a paid blogger for Time Warner Inc.-owned The Unofficial Apple Weblog. Many reported their own technical difficulties with the site.

Palmer, who also works as a graphic designer in San Diego, has used .Mac for e-mail and sharing files with clients for eight years. He was able to access his files during the outage using desktop programs. The outage won’t keep him from using MobileMe because, he said, .Mac has a long history of going dark.

But Benjamin Presnell, a reader of the blog who lives in New York, said he may switch to a different service because of the long downtime.

“This is just crazy,” Presnell said.

The problems facing .Mac users Thursday aren’t likely to change the minds of those waiting anxiously to buy the new iPhone Friday, said Tim Bajarin, president of technology consulting group Creative Strategies in Campbell, Calif.

“For one thing, even though MobileMe is an important part of the Apple ecosystem, the real issue for tomorrow is people getting their hands on an iPhone with 3G network capabilities,” Bajarin said.

And, in his experience, Apple just doesn’t miss product launch deadlines.

“If they say it will be turned on tomorrow at a certain point, it will be turned on.”