Remember the Milk fails to serve its Outlook users — or does it understand its audience perfectly?
Like everyone else with something resembling a life, the amount of things I have to do beats the crap out of the amount of time I have to do them. So I’ve used a variety of methodologies, software programs, wireless devices, and enthusiast websites (1, 2) to keep everything organized and moving forward.
Nirvana for personal overclockers, at least on the digital side of personal optimization, is complete synchronization across computers, networks, and devices. Yet the most basic of synchronizations — notes and lists of tasks that work together on a computer and a handheld device, something I took for granted when the original PalmPilot came out in 1995 — is unavailable on the iPhone. The failure is Apple’s, of course. But there is one vendor that could solve the problem and make some money from it, but has decided not to. At first I thought this decision was a big, fat fail, but now I wonder.
Remember the Milk is a sturdy web-based task management service. It’s reliable and flexible, and it comes in a very handy iPhone-optimized version. It doesn’t, however, work with Microsoft Outlook, the “productivity” suite millions of people
are forced to work with. A service that could connect Outlook tasks to the iPhone via a premium web-based service would seem a smart business. And because it already has an excellent web-based service that works well on the iPhone, you’d think Remember the Milk would be uniquely positioned to own that niche.
So do hundreds (at least) of Remember the Milk (RTM) users, both those using the free and “pro” ($25 per year) versions. An active, energetic thread in RTM’s forums (disclosure: I’ve contributed) is full of requests, demands, and begs that the small company develop an Outlook-synching tool, as it has for some other platforms. The folks who write and manage RTM weighed in early in the discussion but have been noticeable by their absence for more than 18 months.
I thought this was nuts. I wanted to grab the RTM team by their lapels and shout, “People, your customers, many of whom don’t give you a dime, are offering to sign up for your paid service if you just do this. Why don’t you?”
I don’t know anyone at RTM and I haven’t heard from any of them about this. (I weighed in a few times in the discussion forum and sent an email, but I never heard back.) These people have developed a good service. Shouldn’t I at least acknowledge that they might know their customers better than I do? They’re certainly talented at getting the service to work in plenty of places: web, iPhone, BlackBerry, plenty of Google services, Twitter, Windows Mobile devices, even when not connected to the Net. If they wanted to provide Outlook synchronization, they could. They’ve chosen not to. There is an API for RTM, so I suppose I could do this myself if I (a) had the inclination and (b) did not stink as a programmer.
There are plenty of good reasons for RTM to punt on Outlook. Maybe the RTM userbase is far more Mac-centric than you’d think. Maybe either Microsoft or Apple are working on this and RTM knows this. Maybe some people at the Googleplex are working on Google Tasks in their 20% time and RTM knows this. Maybe someone outside RTM who (a) has the inclination and (b) does not stink as a programmer is working on this. Maybe no one at RTM has the energy for yet another port.
The problem is: I don’t know. I’m willing to assume that RTM has good reason not to provide Outlook synchronization. But as a paying customer and a fan, I’d rather know for sure.