Apple updates Leopard, speeds up MobileMe sync

Mac OS X 10.5.6 now syncs with service every minute; no boost for Windows users

Apple boosted the sync performance of its MobileMe online service today, months after it rolled out the service to so much criticism that it felt obligated to extend users' subscription.

As part of the Mac OS X 10.5.6 upgrade released today, Apple included fixes to MobileMe, the company's online synchronization, storage and Web application service. "Contacts, calendars, and bookmarks on a Mac automatically sync within a minute of the change being made on the computer, another device, or the web at me.com," Apple said in the update description it posted online Monday morning.

MobileMe -- the successor to Apple's earlier.Mac service -- was plagued by problems and knocked by users from the start. Almost immediately, users griped that information they entered on their Mac and PC calendars and address books wasn't pushed instantly to the MobileMe servers, even though Apple had marketed the US$99-per-year service as synchronizing "automatically, instantly and continuously."

In July, Apple confirmed that upstream synchronization from Macs to MobileMe was done only once every 15 minutes in Leopard and only once per hour in Tiger, aka Mac OS X 10.4. Several days later, Apple apologized for the trouble-prone launch and added 30 days of service to all MobileMe users' accounts.

At the time, the company specifically called out the slow sync problem. "Another snag we have run into is our use of the word 'push' in describing everything under the MobileMe umbrella," Apple told subscribers. "Even though things are indeed instantly pushed to and from your iPhone and the web apps today, we are going to stop using the word 'push' until it is near-instant on PCs and Macs, too."

Although Mac OS X 10.5 MobileMe users should now see data synchronized every minute, subscribers running Windows XP or Vista remain on the slow train. "Windows XP and Vista (with MobileMe Control Panel 1.2): Contacts, calendars, and bookmarks changes sync every 15 minutes" when the setting is on "Automatically," a just-revised support document on Apple's site now reads.

The support document was also more ambiguous about the synchronization speed than was Mac OS X 10.5.6's accompanying description. The former, for example, said, "...generally within a minute of the change being made on the computer, another device, or on the web at me.com." The latter omitted the word "generally."

Mac OS X 10.5.6 also includes 37 other improvements and fixes for applications ranging from the Address Book to Mail, and for features such as the operating system's wireless, networking, printing, parental controls and automatic backup.

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