“Not wanting to sound like an asshole, Phil, but I use Gmail IMAP and when I read a message on my iPod, it’s read on Gmail too.” – Yanik Magnan (I’m breaking up my thoughts about the WWDC keynote into multiple posts this year.)
Apple has been running .mac as a service since 2000 (when it was known as iTools), and for the first six years, the service was happily functional. But the service has languished over the past two years, with service outages and a lack of compelling reasons to chalk up the $100 a year.
MobileMe is the .mac mulligan. It’s been revamped, with a focus now on pushing data to devices rather than enriching your digital life.
From my own experience, .mac became less valuable not because of the downtime but because of strong alternatives – largely from Google. Gmail trounced .mac mail. Google Calendar edged out iCal. Google Talk has grown more useful that .Mac’s piggybacking on AIM. Flickr creamed the iPhoto integration. You get the picture – free and/or cheap services continued to pop up and outclass .mac on nearly every level.
MobileMe certainly appears to have a compelling interface, but the proof is in the service. Apple has to justify the expense of MobileMe over robust free products, and that’s no small feat, even for Apple. And nothing I read about the demo made it sound $100-compelling.
Apple has already posted a few resources for curious .mac users:
The FAQ reveals the features that are getting cut: Web access to bookmarks (not the end of the world), iCards (one of the very original iTools features, which I strangely loved), .Mac slides (meh), and support for Mac OS X 10.3 Panther sync (which should’ve been dropped a year ago).
It also strikes me as terribly weird to announce this, a very consumer-oriented service, at the Developer’s Conference. Perhaps there will be some sessions about hooking into it via an API – joy of joys. But there’s a larger elephant in the room.
While I’m sure there’s some consumers who have bought in that they absolutely must have push email so they can get funny forwards from Aunt Millie instantly, where an “Exchange for the rest of us” is really needed is in the (very unsexy) enterprise. Exchange is costly and cumbersome, and Microsoft is raking money in hand-over-fist in CAL fees.
Were Apple playing it smart, they’d be baking the same core technologies – push email, calendar, and address book – behind MobileMe into 10.6 Server. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely convinced Apple is playing it smart here.
For more, Merlin Mann (like clockwork) has some good thoughts on MobileMe.