Apple's services show how the company has changed since its MobileMe farce

You do remember MobileMe, right?

Apple today shared details on how its services fared during 2020 and it makes for interesting reading. You can check out the full story yourself, but the gist is simple – people are buying, downloading, and streaming more and more. If there was any doubt that Apple is a services company going into 2021, that doubt should now be dead and buried. But the thought of Apple, the company behind MobileMe, being so strong in services is an alien concept to those of us who remember that debacle.

MobileMe was, ultimately, an unmitigated failure. Things were so bad that Steve Jobs reportedly went on something of a tirade, reprimanding those in charge. Eddy Cue was put in charge and MobileMe was gone soon after. iCloud replaced it and despite its foibles, has been a much better service from top to bottom.

Just how bad was MobileMe? Steve Jobs really didn’t like it, emailing the entire Apple staff to say so. When MobileMe went live, nothing worked. To call the service unstable is charitable, to say the very least. And that’s ignoring the fact that Apple said its email, contacts, and calendar features included support for ‘push’ only for that to not be the case at all.

It was a mess, as TechRadar reported.

Within days, MobileMe users were complaining of a litany of problems resulting from failed synchronisation attempts between contact, calendar and email apps on user’s computers, iPods and iPhones.

Jobs went on the warpath.

“The MobileMe launch clearly demonstrates that we have more to learn about Internet services,” Jobs says. “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.”

And learn, it did. Since then we’ve seen the launch of Apple Music, Apple News+, Apple TV+, Apple Fitness+, iCloud, Apple Arcade, and even Apple Card. Not only are these services here and working, but they’re popular, too. The recent bundling of them all into Apple One will bring more of those services to more people, too. And while Apple still isn’t on the same level as an Amazon or Google, its server-side chops are much improved over those dark days of MobileMe.

If Apple is to continue transforming itself into a services company, those chops are going to need to continue to improve, too.

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