Jobs shakes up Apple management over MobileMe debacle

Apple may need public beta testing to avoid a repeat, says analyst

MobileMe, said McGuire, was being pitched by Apple not just to consumers, but to small businesses, too, with the "Exchange for the rest of us" slogan that it initially used -- but has since dropped -- to promote the synchronization service. The reference to Exchange was meant to evoke Microsoft's mail server, which is used by bigger businesses but rarely by small firms, to deliver e-mail and sync messages, contacts and calendar appointments with users in the field.

"This has to get fixed, and fixed quickly," said McGuire of the MobileMe mess.

MobileMe stumbled even before it got off the ground. The transition from .Mac, which was supposed to take only a few hours, instead dragged on a full day, raising the ire of users locked out of their accounts. Days later, customers complained about slower-than-expected synchronization, which Apple answered with an apology and a 30-day service extension to all users. Then on July 18, an Apple server went south, taking down the e-mail accounts of about 1 per cent of MobileMe's subscribers. The outage lasted 11 days before service was fully restored.

McGuire isn't completely confident that Apple would take the step to test future products, "cloud" services especially, in a more public manner. "They won't do this on hardware or the OS, but maybe on these Internet-related services [they will]," he said.

"I give it less than a 50-50 chance of happening," he said. "But I think they'll start considering it carefully."

Jobs wrapped up his e-mail to Apple employees, not with a specific promise to test, but with a general mea culpa and call to action.

"The MobileMe launch clearly demonstrates that we have more to learn about Internet services," Jobs said. "And learn we will. The vision of MobileMe is both exciting and ambitious, and we will press on to make it a service we are all proud of by the end of this year."

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Gregg Keizer

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