Apple’s resources stretched too far, employees pushed too hard?

Apple’s “MobileMe offers a reduced set of services [vs. Apple’s .Mac service that MobileMe replaced] for the same $99 per year, but promised Microsoft Exchange-like synchronization for contacts, e-mail and events, as well as snappy and modern Web applications for a far better experience when away from your desktop or iPhone/iPod touch applications,” Glenn Fleishman reports for The Seattle Times.

“Instead of a clean launch, I and reportedly hundreds of thousands of .Mac subscribers had days of problems. And even when resolved, the problems left what Apple describes as 1 percent of its e-mail users adrift from e-mail for 10 days,” Fleishman reports. “The company’s MobileMe stumble resulted from its increasing busyness and business.”

“Apple has evolved from a has-been to an also-ran to a niche-but-pervasive force in computers, smartphones and digital movie rentals, and it continues to be a dominant force in digital music purchase and portable music and video playback,” Fleishman writes. “This has stretched its resources.”

MacDailyNews Take: Apple has always been a pervasive force in personal computers. From the Apple I right on through to today. We all use “Macs” today – whether they’re the real thing or the upside-down and backwards, incoherent fake Mac that Microsoft calls “Windows.”

Fleishman continues, “Apple scheduled four events for July 11: the release of iPhone 2.0 software for existing iPhone owners; completion of the switchover of .Mac to MobileMe (which began disastrously two days earlier); the release of the iPhone 3G; and the opening of the App Store, a marketplace for iPhone and iPod touch software.”

Fleishman writes, “Perhaps that was a little much… Apple needs to take a long, hard look at how hard it’s pushing its employees — and how little polish seems to be left on the company’s image right now.”

Full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Tim D.” for the heads up.]


  1. Geez, it doesn’t seem to take much for people to start accusing that “the polish” has tarnished.

    The Mobile Me stuff was an uncharacteristic event. Apple has shown a number of growing pains these past ten years, it’s just that now it’s being followed more closely in the news (without the term ‘death knell’ being thrown somewhere in the article).

    If Apple has shown anything it’s that it learns from its successes AND failures. And if these past successes have also demonstrated anything, the intention is not to sit still. When .Mac was introduced in place of iTools, it was a service in search of subscribers. It still is, but now that Apple has tied it to iPhone, their push for platform dominance in the mobile age, I’d expect Mobile Me to continue to grow, too. More desktop class apps available through your mobile devices. This really is a 1.0 version.

  2. The majority of dedicated computer users are smart and tech savvy. The majority of cellphone users- not so much. Supporting the cellphone crowd puts you in the crosshairs of a duller group of people who will complain about things they do not fully grasp. Hence, the current whining coming from that crowd.

  3. If employees don’t like being ‘pushed’ then I would delay any raise in pay.

    One motto to live by. “Always be worth more than you are making”.

    Worked for me, I never asked for a raise, but ALWAYS received one.

    Does not work if you’re a government worker or union member.

  4. Any company that is thriving and growing will push its existing employees hard while working to hire and train more. That’s a good thing; Apple is not stagnant, like it was in the late 90’s.

    Mobile Me worked fine for me during the transition. I did not notice any email outages, except one after midnight (when I was about to go to sleep). I avoided the new web-based features initially, and now that I’m trying them out, they seem to be working fine. Plus I got a free 30-day extension of my membership when I had no complaints. That’s a good deal.

  5. I was one of the 1%. Apple was very slow to communicate what was going on. Despite the frothing of certain commentators, this is uncharacteristic for Apple, so I suspect they were slow to figure out themselves what was going on.

    The four-fold launch was a bad idea. It gave Apple multiple points of failure. If more than one thing went wrong they would be hosed. Since they knew that first day sign-ups would overwhelm any reasonable infrastructure they put in place for the other 99.9% of the time, they had to count on nothing else going wrong. A dangerous strategy that bit them this time around.

    Being over stretched almost certainly contributed to the problems, either in the run up or in the clean up, but to say it was the cause of the problems is premature. We don’t know what happened, and the list of possible causes includes many that don’t require being over stretched as a prerequisite.

    I don’t have an iPhone. I still use 10.4.x. I am not going to be using the new features of MobileMe anytime soon. Apple screwed up and hosed my (secondary) email for ten days when I didn’t want to make any changes at all. Damn annoying. However, everyone makes mistakes, even if it is inconvenient to me. This is the biggest foul-up I can remember from Apple. If they do it again, I’ll start worrying that their commitment to excellence is losing out to a lust for marketing splash, but not yet. One really big screw up doesn’t mean everything is doomed. Let’s see what happens with these rumoured product transitions.

  6. Who ever listened to the opinion of Glen Fleishman?

    I mean really, to come up with a line like this:

    “Apple needs to take a long, hard look at how hard it’s pushing its employees — and how little polish seems to be left on the company’s image right now.”

  7. “The majority of dedicated computer users are smart and tech savvy. The majority of cellphone users- not so much”

    That’s not fair. You’re comparing “dedicated” users to users. Compare computer users (those who use computers) to cellphone users (those who use cellphones) and you’ll have just as many dullards in the bunch.

  8. One one hand, Fleishman is probably right that Apple tried to unleash too many new things at one time. The planets would have had to be aligned perfectly for nothing to go wrong. There weren’t.

    So, Apple did the right thing; they fessed up to the problem, fixed it ASAP, and gave new subscribers a extra free month on MobileMe. 6 months from now no one will remember the screw up at launch. Instead, they will be wetting their pants because all the new stuff Apple released works so well.

    However, Fleishman’s assertion that Apple is pushing its employees too hard is a rather subjective judgment on his part. Apple is known for pushing its staff very, very hard. Read Kahney’s recent book: Inside Steve’s Brain for proof of Apple’s approach.

    In Apple’s case, pushing people to their limits is what unleashes the fantastic innovation that the company keeps producing. When people finally leave Apple they feel like they have been beaten to a pulp, but they also know they produced the best work of their lives.

    Maybe Fleishman should spend more time writing about why his local company (M$) can’t duplicate Apple’s accomplishments.

  9. While I can certainly empathize with folks who lost emails during this transition, I personally just sat out the few days they were having a rough time, and by about 4-5 days after the transition, the web part was working, as was pretty much instant synching, so I really have no complaints.

    By the by, I forward all my email to my .mac/.me account now. I have separate accounts to send mail from so that people see my corporate email when I send them messages, but for the past year, since I bought my iPhone, I’ve had everything channeled through my .mac account and have found it to work extremely well, so honestly I want to give Apple a pat on the back rather than a smack on the rear!

  10. I think there is some truth to this article. Some things did seem to be slightly rushed. It appears that Apple is putting so much into the iPhone that other things are being pushed back, as was Leopard. Maybe once the whole iPhone thing stabilizes, they will get more balanced.

  11. All is not well yet, I have 4 separate accounts and could not send mail from any last night around midnight for over a half hour, even though the MobileMe status was GREEN! 2 of those accounts were in the alleged 1% and 2 were not.

    And to all who repeatedly tells us everything has always worked fine… stick it!

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