Why Isn’t there a Google Version of MobileMe for the iPhone?

As a very proud and happy iPhone 3G owner, I’ve been surprised how much I like the device, especially after owning a Blackberry for 6 years. When I first heard about MobileMe, I was intrigued by the service. I passed at launch, not because I thought there would be tons of hiccups (which there were) but because I don’t use Apple as my primary mail or calendar store and I wasn’t willing to sign up for a service that doesn’t support my main email address and usage patterns. Like a lot of tech folks I know, I live on Gmail and Google Calendar for my personal life and I have found some simple ways to use the Google Sync for Blackberry agent to get it working with my Zimbra work calendar as well.

As a former Googler, I’m perplexed by Google’s absence on the iPhone platform as it pertains to core PIM services. The core requirements for a great iPhone sync app are pretty easy to identify – I’ve taken a stab at doing so below:

-The ability to silently sync PIM data in the background (they’ve demonstrated they can do this with the Google Sync tool for Blackberry – if you’re a Blackberry user who also uses Google Calendar you should download and install it immediately)
-A good web / desktop calendar product (Google Calendar qualifies here)
-A great mail application on the web / desktop (I love Gmail and can’t imagine life without it)
-A great address book management tool

Ah, that’s it I suppose – Google has yet to release a really strong (or even basic) address book tool. That’s the missing piece of the puzzle, in my opinion. If they had one of those, I think combining all of the services into a neat, simple package would be a no-brainer for the company. I’d happily pay MobileMe like prices for this bundle. The funny thing is that managing Gmail on the iPhone using IMAP with the native Mail app is really great – it’s like having a near real-time synchronized version of your inbox in your pocket at all times. I would only hope the Google version of this service would include a strong search component as well.

Reading down that list it’s pretty clear that there’s another company with all of the core components you’d need to pull this off – Yahoo. I don’t use many of their products, but they too could do this.

At any rate, I hope someone fulfills the “Exchange for the Rest of Us” promise that MobileMe fumbled. And I hope that someone is Google.

  • Tadhg

    And maybe the Google version would actually work as expected.
    I love Apple but I do not love Mobileme.

  • If Google came up with a MobileMe alternative, I'd be in like a shot and would let my MobileMe account lapse for sure.

  • I really wanted over the air syncing with Google Calendar too – and it exists. It's Nueva Sync. It's super nice and will do mail and contacts if you want it to. Calendar was the killer app for this – mail already syncs with imap and my gmail contacts list is a mess that I don't want cluttering up my phone.

    https://www.nuevasync.com/

  • sympatica

    Charles,

    Have you tried over-the-air sync between your new iPhone and Zimbra directly? If your Zimbra server is the Network Edition, and version 5.0.7 or later, you've got what you're looking for already, and yes, Yahoo!/Zimbra did it first. I'm meeting your objectives above with 01.com, a hosted zimbra provider, now.

  • Luqman Mahmud

    I agree about the address book tool. Google's address book is pretty poor. Address sync would be great. I personally use plaxo to store my primary address book. My blackberry may have the latest version but I regularly try to sync it with plaxo so that I have a good copy in case my phone dies. I'd rather sync it with gmail but there is no deduplication tools nor any real method of syncing addresses. One can always wish…. Just like I wish Apple would give us voice dialing & cut-n-paste so I can ditch my blackberry…

  • Luqman Mahmud

    I agree about the address book tool. Google’s address book is pretty poor. Address sync would be great. I personally use plaxo to store my primary address book. My blackberry may have the latest version but I regularly try to sync it with plaxo so that I have a good copy in case my phone dies. I’d rather sync it with gmail but there is no deduplication tools nor any real method of syncing addresses. One can always wish…. Just like I wish Apple would give us voice dialing & cut-n-paste so I can ditch my blackberry…