Apple's updated syncing service is a disappointment for PC users.
- Syncs iPhones to Macs and PCs wirelessly, lets you control one Mac from another
- More expensive than it should be, frequent syncing problems with Windows
With limited support for Windows calendar apps — and a barrel of configuration problems — MobileMe is no bargain for Windows users.
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To coincide with the release of the company's iPhone 3G, Apple overhauled its Mac-centric .Mac service and renamed it — seemingly without irony — MobileMe. In addition to the new name and the vaguely Windows ME-esque logo, the new service introduces one notable new feature: the ability to sync with iPhones, iPods, and PCs.
The new MobileMe service also arrived with about 70 new bugs, many of which PC World had occasion to experience during the service's first few weeks of life, and many of which remain unresolved as of this writing. Apple is aware of the problems, however; Steve Jobs himself admitted that the application was "not up to Apple's standards" and said that it would have benefited from more time and testing.
The good news: If you're a long-time Mac user with an existing .Mac account, switching to MobileMe won't be much of an adjustment. MobileMe's existing support for syncing iCal calendars, bookmarks, and connecting two Macs via the Back-To-My-Mac feature still work as they always have. In our tests with the iPhone and the iPod Touch, the service reliably synced calendars and bookmarks with our Macs.
With our PCs, it has been a different story. MobileMe's support for Windows focuses almost entirely on Microsoft Outlook. If you aren't a fan of Outlook and would just like to sync calendar events to Vista's built-in Windows Calendar, forget it. That omission wouldn't be so bad if Outlook syncing worked smoothly, but it doesn't. Instead, we continue to get daily error messages informing us that the MobileMe Sync Server is configured incorrectly, along with a vague message directing us to the MobileMe control panel, which offers no further help.
Even with the service's problems, however, our calendar events do consistently migrate from Outlook to iPhone and iPod and Mac, and back again. And MobileMe's Web interface is one of the finest we've seen, living up to Apple's reputation for slick software design. Snappy menus and intuitive drag-and-drop controls guide you through calendar entries and the iDisk online-storage service.
Nevertheless, it's difficult to justify the yearly subscription fee for such a half-baked syncing tool. In an all-Mac world, MobileMe might be a worthwhile expense, due to the undeniably handy Back-To-My-Mac remote control feature.
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