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MobileMe offers another free bite of the Apple

'We're really sorry again'

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Apple has offered MobileMe users free month's trial to apologise for taking their money without asking, in addition to the free month they got for the misrepresentation of the service.

However, users are still reporting that MobileMe keeps forgetting where they're supposed to be and when they should be there.

Last week Apple offered customers a free month's service for misleading them about capabilities. Now the company is waving another free month to atone for swiping £121 from some accounts, instead of the $1 it was supposed to take.

To make matters worse, MobileMe isn't playing nicely with Outlook, according to many Reg readers, who report that appointments vanish or appear in specific modes only.

Apple's first apology was for claiming MobileMe would immediately update contacts and calendars, with instant syncing between online, offline and mobile devices. This was a stretch because scheduled synchronisation is necessary, leading to a delay of up to 15 minutes. Apple acknowledged its mistake in an email to customers, blaming the error on excitement over the service:

"Another snag we have run into is our use of the word 'push' in describing everything under the MobileMe umbrella. While all email, contact or calendar changes on the iPhone and the web apps are immediately synced to and from the MobileMe "cloud," changes made on a PC or Mac take up to 15 minutes to sync with the cloud and your other devices."

The grovelling continues as the email announces an extension on the 60-day trial to 90 days. A 15-minute delay wouldn't matter to most people, but having £121 swiped from a bank account unexpectedly is another matter. So Apple contacted several readers on Saturday with the offer of another free month:

"Typically when you create a new trial account, your credit or debit card is verified by authorizing a small charge (equivalent to USD $1). Unfortunately, an error caused the incorrect amount to be preauthorized for your card. Be assured that this is not a charge, but only an authorization hold. The hold is released by the card-issuing bank after a predetermined period, usually between a week and a month. Where possible, Apple is working to have these holds removed earlier."

Apple again goes on to extend the trial, so users can now expect 120 days' free use of MobileMe to enjoy synchronised data everywhere - as long as they're not using Microsoft Outlook.

Outlook cloudy

Those using this most popular of personal information managers are having some problems. It appears that appointments created on the iPhone aren't gelling with Outlook's schedules as they should.

The problem only occurs when an iPhone user creates an appointment on his handset and try to synchronise it through MobileMe to their desktop installation of Outlook. In such circumstances the appointment appears in the Today view, but not in the normal calendar pages.

A posting to Howard Forums suggests a work-around that involves mucking about with the settings for every entry tapped into the handset. This seems to be working but is hardly a long-term fix, which, Apple is working on, no doubt.

Apple bills MobileMe as "Exchange for the rest of us". Microsoft's Exchange may not be perfect, but it has never (as far as we know) removed money from bank accounts without authorisation. Or misinformed us - much- about its synchronisation abilities.

Some teething problems are to be expected - applications like MobileMe are easy to make, but they are hard to do well. And users of MobileMe do seem remarkably sanguine - punters who would bay for blood if their mobile phone operator overcharged them a quid are happily taking Apple's word that this will all be sorted out soon and their money will be returned. It remains to be seen how long the goodwill lasts. But if all else fails Apple can always drum up another 30 days free. ®

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