Tag Archives: mobileme

MobileMeh

January, 2000: Apple unveiled iTools. Provided for free to anyone running OS 9, it provided a POP email account at mac.com, 20 MB of internet-based storage referred to as iDisk, web hosting space, and internet filtering software to keep the kids safe. It was 2000, I was in college, it was free. I could not argue. I took the address remy@mac.com.

July, 2002: iTools relaunches as “.Mac”. It begins to cost $100 a year. Having just graduated, and not wanting to be tied to my university email for the rest of my life, I opt to start paying in October.

October, 2003: I renew my .Mac account. I am happy with the service.

February 2004: I purchase my first Sidekick. It does not sync contacts with my phone, thus increasing the value of address book sync.

April, 2004: Gmail launches. Unable to take a name of less than six characters, I default back to “remydwd” as my user name. My .Mac email account falls out of favor, but continue to renew the account for address book synchronization.

October, 2004: I renew my .Mac account. I feel like I am getting enough out of the address book, bookmarks, and keychain sync to justify the cost, and Katie’s email account is attached as a sub-account.

October, 2005: I renew my .Mac account. I still feel like I am getting enough out of the address book, bookmarks, and keychain sync to justify the cost, and Katie’s email account is attached as a sub-account.

April, 2006: Google Calendar launches. Any use I had for iCal as a primary repository of my calendaring now goes out the window.

October, 2006: I renew my .Mac account. I’m not entirely sure I am getting enough out of the sync to justify the cost, but Katie’s email account is attached as a sub-account. June, 2007: The iPhone comes out. I buy one the day after release. I finally replace my Sidekick with a phone that can actually sync my address book.

October, 2007: Leopard launches, which features “Back to My Mac”. I finally have some degree of reliable screen sharing between home and the office. I happily renew my .Mac account.

April, 2008: I get an invite to Dropbox. I immediately forget about the existence of iDisk – not that I had ever used it much to begin with.

June, 2008: .Mac relaunches as MobileMe. It is largely terrible for the first few months. I don’t notice much as I’m not using the service – not even on my iPhone for over-the-air contact syncing, which blows out my address book the first time I try it. I get a three month service extension to compensate for the poor service.

January, 2009: I renew my .Mac account. Katie has switched to Gmail at long last, but Back To My Mac is still mostly useful.

June, 2009: iPhone OS 3.0 is released. “Find my iPhone” is added as a feature to MobileMe. I find it neat but ultimately useless, as I could remote wipe through a console at the office. I can now get both my work and personal calendar over the air, reliably. I refer to this as the “holy grail” around the office.

January 2010: I face reality. When you have extremely reliable, robust email from Google, cloud storage with every feature I can imagine from Dropbox, and I’m able to carry my address book with me on my iPhone all the time, I am unable to see any reason to continue with MobileMe. I decline to renew my account.

Narrative aside, there’s a lesson here: if you’re going to provide core internet services, consider the price differential between you and your strongest competitor. If it’s a little, you only need to be a little better.

$100 a year for what feels like a worse product than what’s available for free? Your business model is screwed. Start over, do better.

WWDC08 Keynote – MobileMe

“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.