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Apple has that syncing feeling over MobileMe

When we say push, we really mean shove

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Apple has rewritten marketing bumf for its MobileMe service after it emerged the "push" service actually needed customers to do their own share of shoving when it came to updating desktop apps.

MobileMe, or "Exchange for the rest of us" as Apple bills it, is supposed to push data between online storage, which Apple calls "The Cloud", desktop applications such as iCal, and mobile devices such as the iPhone or iPod Touch.

But while some data is being pushed and some being pulled, the rest is still reliant on a synchronisation process inherited from its ".mac" predecessor.

Email is managed through IMAP, and strictly speaking is pulled by polling the IMAP servers every minute, though that gives a reasonable impression of being pushed.

But the dispersal mechanism for updates to the contacts or calendar are dependent on where the changes are made. Updates made to The Cloud (through a web interface) are instantly pushed to the desktop applications and iPhones, and changes made on an iPhone (or iPod Touch) are echoed to The Cloud and desktop. But changes made using the desktop application are not instantly or automatically reflected on the iPhone or within The Cloud.

Such changes need to wait for a synchronisation process, a lag of up to 15 minutes, before they are propagated between the platforms. Not only that but anyone trying to use some of the more advanced IMAP capabilities, such as the APPEND command, will find the MobileMe service unaware that any changes have been made to their e-mail account, at least until a good-old SMTP delivery triggers notification.

To most people these might seem a minor issues, but many Mac users are up in arms about what they see as inaccurate representation of the service.

The vehemence is such that Apple has amended its descriptions to reflect the fact that desktop applications need to have a sync interval set up, as shown by a comparison hosted by MacRumours.

The issue is certainly being taken seriously by some, though. As one poster to the Apple discussion forum put it: "Pretty much the only reason I signed up for MobileMe was to be able to 'push' calendar and contact changes between my four Macs and two iPhones."

Quite why the poster feels the need to maintain six identical contact lists on four computers and two iPhones we don't know, but with such a spread of devices instant synchronisation is clearly a necessity and a 15-minute delay unacceptable. ®

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