Apple restores partial access to MobileMe e-mail

Apple Inc. late Friday announced that it had restored partial access to blacked-out MobileMe e-mail accounts, but acknowledged that some messages sent to those accounts had been lost during the week-long outage.

Full access to MobileMe's e-mail will be restored within another week, Apple said.

In a posting under a new "Status" section of the MobileMe home page on Apple's Web site, an unnamed employee said he had been directed by CEO Steve Jobs to keep users up-to-date on the outage and efforts to restore service.

The long message -- an unusual step for Apple, but perhaps prompted by the fact that those affected are not able to receive mail at their mac.com or me.com addresses -- summarized the problem, which Apple blamed on a balky server . The post also reiterated Apple's claim that only about 1% of MobileMe subscribers had been blocked from their accounts.

"As of today, a team was able to restore limited Web access to those accounts so the affected members can use their browsers to read mail that has arrived since last Friday (though not before) as well as send and receive new mail," the Friday message read. "The team has already begun rolling out restoration of full access for all the accounts and expect[s] to finish by the end of next week."

The Apple employee confirmed the loss of some messages sent to the affected accounts in the two days prior to the outage, which began for most users on July 18. "We particularly regret to report the loss in the affected accounts of approximately 10% of the messages received between July 16 and July 18," Apple said.

Apple also updated a support document late Friday night to flesh out instructions to users. Until the new messages were posted to the Status page of MobileMe, the support document had been the only official word on the incident by Apple.

The document noted that the partial service restoration "does not provide access to any e-mail messages received or saved before the outage began on July 18," but promised that most would eventually be restored to users. However, the support document echoed the warning in the Status message about lost mail. "While the vast majority of your e-mail messages will be fully restored, a small percentage of e-mail messages in the affected accounts have regrettably been lost. This includes approximately 10% of messages received between 5:00 a.m. PDT on July 16 and 10:20 a.m. PDT on July 18. We sincerely apologize for any e-mail messages you may have lost."

The only recourse, according to Apple, is if subscribers used a desktop client -- such as Mac OS X 's Mail or Outlook, Outlook Express or Windows Mail on a PC -- to grab messages from their mac.com and me.com accounts, and backed up their Mac's or PC's data. Those customers may be able to restore lost messages from their own backups.

Others are out of luck. "If you access your MobileMe Mail exclusively at me.com, there's nothing for you to do. Your account will be restored, but you will not be able to retrieve any messages that may have been lost from your account," the document stated.

MobileMe customers who had been without e-mail for more than a week were understandably happy to hear the news that some service had been restored, but the mood remained gloomy on some threads in Apple's support forums.

"After 8 or so days, I think this is a little too late," said a user identified as Confused7766 on the MobileMe forum, referring to the Status message and revised support document posted Friday. "If I had seen this on the third day I would have been very happy."

Others continued to rebuke Apple. "Apple is still clinging to the phrase, 'rocky road' in describing the rollout," said David Farrow on another thread. "GIVE US A BREAK. This isn't a few rocks in the road, it is an effing LAND SLIDE.

"You're asking us to invest into using this service in our homes and small businesses, you have a rollout DISASTER like this, and then try to blow it off as a pebble in the road? I am losing confidence as this debacle unfolds, and I watch Apple's increasingly flailing response."

The e-mail outage was just one of several major MobileMe problems in the last two weeks. Prior to its July 11 kickoff, customers of the .Mac service -- MobileMe's predecessor -- complained about a day-long blackout when Apple shifted to MobileMe. That process was supposed to take just a few hours.

Last week, other users blasted Apple for slower-than-expected synchronization between Macs and PCs on one hand, and the iPhone and MobileMe servers on the other. At the time, Apple apologized and credited customers with an additional 30 days of service after acknowledging that that part of the service didn't meet the definition of "push" synchronization.

This story, "Apple restores partial access to MobileMe e-mail" was originally published by Computerworld.

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