Monday, December 05, 2011

For As Long As Customer Demand Warrants.

I wrote the following to Apple's MobileMe Feedback page in response to the recent decision to close down MobileMe on 30 June, 2012:

This is my general comments to the MobileMe team and, particularly, to senior management at Apple, regarding the planned decommissioning of MobileMe services. The following prose describes my disappointment and concern over Apple's recent policies and attitudes towards backwards compatibility and customer support over products and technologies that have reached an end-of-life status in recent years, and how it compares with what Apple had done to support customers in the past under similarly significant technology transitions.

The need to move to a new technology is always understandable, where to stagnate is to perish, but even in the early 1990's, Apple had procedures and programs in place to allow its customers a considerable amount of time to be able to make such technology transitions with Apple at their own pace. The unlikely introductions of the Platinum Apple IIe in 1988, and the Apple IIe Card and the 1 MB Apple IIGS in 1990 showed the Apple II community that while Macintosh was definitely Apple's technology for the future, Apple nevertheless took on an interest in developing bridging technologies that permitted users to transition from their original investments to Apple's latest technologies, with transition periods in excess of 2 years, and strategies that even involved the development of peripheral devices that worked on both Apple II and Macintosh.

Apple announced to the Apple II community that they would support the Apple II for as long as customer demand warrants. To me, this was an important statement to make to customers, because it showed that Apple was interested in keeping their customers engaged for when they were ready to finally migrate with Apple to newer technologies. This corporate pledge was what made me consider Macintosh as my future in computing with Apple.

However, Apple's attention to compatibility and transition started to change when computers were more interconnected with TCP/IP-based networking and the World Wide Web.

Fast-forward to 2003, where Apple started to integrate Internet services, such as iDisk, into Mac OS 9, and Macintosh users started to see new capabilities beyond what they could do on the desktop. As new services such as iCards, Homepage and Kidsafe introduce customers to features that add to the Mac experience without installing additional software, it also introduced to customers features that relied on Internet access for them to work. And this became blatantly obvious when services terminated.

In stark contrast, with the termination of iTools on Mac OS 9, customers were treated with the first scheduled termination of network services—for the first time, people started to see how compatibility and stability of operating system services is directly affected by the disappearance of network services, degrading the whole user experience.  Operating systems began to have a much tighter dependency with the network than they did with the hardware they ran on, and resulted in systems having much shorter life spans than they had done in the past, often followed by forced upgrades to operating systems and applications to support them.

And for every transition from iTools to .Mac, and from .Mac to MobileMe, there had always been some breakage, whether or not it was intentional—major issues repeatedly stemmed from the failures of iSync services on every major underlying technology change, often without notification to subscribers to the services.

Today, the transition from MobileMe to iCloud has been especially painful in that so many of Apple's apps and OS services are relying on the network to the point where changing the network has caused these apps to break, and existing applications and operating systems—that are still in widespread use—are not being updated to suit.  Conversely, those services that have no iCloud equivalent such as iDisk and MobileMe Gallery are not being allowed to run for as long as customer demand warrants. The only thing that has been improved in the transition from MobileMe to iCloud is that people were told of the change. But that's no consolation to a lack of a transition strategy for MobileMe subscribers.

I no longer see the original levels of commitment where Apple allowed customers to migrate to newer technologies on their own terms, particularly with Apple's recent rollout of iCloud, where MobileMe users are being left stranded in more ways than one—Gallery, for publishing media made with iMovie and iPhoto, iDisk and iWeb publishing, and sync services, will all be lost.  If there is such a great demand for MobileMe Gallery and iWeb/iDisk to continue, then why not let it for those presently subscribed to the service?  This ought to be doable, as current arrangements suggest until the June 30 deadline next year.  I see no reason why this support cannot continue until customer demand warrants.

And it's not just MobileMe Gallery and iDisk—those who have an iPhone 3G cannot use Find My iPhone after June 30 (or sooner, if you have moved over to iCloud), and those with MacBook Pro computers that run on the Core Duo processor also have no support either, despite the fact that Windows Vista users do!

iCloud has been delivered with absolutely no migration strategy, and absolutely no care to customer's current arrangements and requirements... well, not in ways that are still important to people, and not in ways that allow people to migrate on their own terms.  If Apple continue producing new technologies as abruptly and as disruptively as this in the future, people are going to not trust the company anymore.  And with Apple in such an important corporate migration path of their own, wouldn't it make sense to be less disruptive to the customers who rely on them?

I sincerely do believe that Apple is doing a disservice to MobileMe subscribers, including myself, by discontinuing iDisk, Gallery and Web publishing services. Discontinuing these services will break many of Apple's own applications that are installed on millions of Macs and assume the existence of MobileMe services, and with no migration strategy, customers are being left with lesser systems that are open to stability and usability issues, ranging from loss of functionality to the potential to hang systems due to absent services. Third party developers who have written Mac applications that use MobileMe services will also fail, and Apple have not even mentioned anything regarding replacement services to address this loss.

It is my opinion and my desire that MobileMe should be left to operate for as long as customer demand warrants, to existing subscribers of the service. I would like to continue using it, and it would allow my existing equipment to operate without the failures that I envisage if the network services cease to exist.

Kind regards.


—tonza

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