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MobileMe: .Mac's iPhone-Friendly Replacement

Apple - MobileMe

MobileMeThere's lots to digest from today's WWDC Stevenote -- not least of which was the dramatic announcement of a 3G iPhone for only $199. But you'll be hearing lots about that in a million places. I want to talk about my first impressions about something even closer to my heart that's at least different this time around, if not entirely new.

Today, Steve announced the upcoming release of Apple's MobileMe service, which will replace the existing .Mac service at the same price of $99/year for an Individual account, while adding some new features, including:

  • Individual account quota doubled to 20GB of storage, including email and files (.Mac currently offers 10GB at the same price)
  • MS Exchange-like "push" syncing between applications on multiple Macs as well as your iPhone, via the MobileMe "cloud"
  • Revamped, web-based Me.com versions of Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Gallery, and iDisk applications

As someone who's had strong feelings, high hopes, and occasional disappointmens with .Mac, I'm going to spend some time over the next few weeks looking into what these changes will mean for the always-on knowledge worker -- particularly now that the service is clearly moving toward tighter integration with iPhones, the iPod Touch, and web-based usage. But first, just a few things to note here (quickly and on first impression):

  • Lovely tweaks - This is where Apple just obliterates the competition; all the tiny little changes we saw to GUI and workflow on the MobileMe web apps and related iPhone apps reflect a lot of thought and look well-suited for real-world usage. I can't wait to see the improvements to iPhone's Calendar and Contacts, in particular. Kudos, team. An iPhone that makes MobileMe easy and transparent to use is a big win all around. (N.B.: as you might expect, Apple's site has many lovely demonstration videos in their MobileMe section)
  • Love the "Push" - No longer having to physically plug in your iPhone to sync stuff like Mail, Calendar, and Contacts is terrific for the multiple-device user. Knowing that (at least as long as you're online) everything matches up just means big peace of mind to me. Maybe most importantly, one hopes that the new Push approach addresses some of the previous sync problems that have plagued .Mac users (Nuclear reset, anyone?).
  • Love the (baby) steps toward true cloud computing - Having such gorgeous and functional apps on the iPhone is a big step in the right direction. How the services that those apps access evolve will be interesting to watch; adding something like broader support for Preferences syncing and better/easier iPhone password management would also be big wins.
  • Hiya, Windows hold-outs - I don't know enough about "Enterprise" buying decisions to speak intelligently about business adoption, but I will say that MobileMe seems like a smart way reach out to individual Windows users and say, "See? Look how easy this all is!" Similarly, a lot of people I talk to these days are down to a single Windows device, and that's the one they have to use at work. MobileMe potentially keeps them connected to their Apple world, even when they're on a PC. That said....
  • Where the heck is a modern, functional iDisk? - It looks like the iDisk web interface has been updated (very pretty, actually), and yeah, there's double the storage, but what can I do with all that stuff when I'm not in front of my home computer? Where's the mobile part? I was really hoping to see something more impressive with iDisk this time around -- like a website with honest to gosh, Google Docs-like editing and management. And what about the iPhone? Can I do anything with my iDisk documents on there? That feels like a swing and a miss for a service with mobile in the name.


  • Will stability and reliability of MobileMe greatly improve over .Mac? Take everything else away, and at the heart, any .Mac/MobileMe product will not survive if Apple doesn't fix the uptime and sync problems. I know sync is hard. But, lots of things are hard and when other companies are doing it more reliably and for free, it should be easy to see there's a bar consumers expect you to reach.
  • How will iPhone additions like Push and GPS affect real battery life? If Steve's battery estimates are anything like real-world, it'll be great. But I have a feeling those are CandyLand Gumdrop numbers. I realize this is an iPhone-specific note, but I'll say that a half-day of "Every 15 Minutes" email checking was an eye-opener for me. I can't imagine what kind of power that thing pulls when it's running full-time GPS for an hour or so.
  • Ready for some competition? With the introduction of independent applications using the iPhone SDK, we can look forward to a bonanza of new functionality that -- based on the game demoes we saw today -- could be pretty eye-popping. Although I don't know details of what functionality is exposed to developers, I have to imagine that the combination of ingenuity, entrepreneurship, and speedy 3G access will bring some much-needed competition into Apple's back yard. I wonder how Apple will react to that.

Bottom Line

Boy, if there's any product that us fanboys want to love, this is it. But it's been a tough few years, even for the superfans. We've watched half a dozen or more other companies' services build similar or better features, provide higher reliability, and charge lower or zero cost in a way that seems to outpace Apple's offering without breaking a sweat.

So, I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on this and reporting back to you on how it's working for me. I want it to work great, and I think it can, based on Apple's high standards and ability to control all the pieces. I also stand by what I said in this post from January about the untapped possibilities of .Mac:

...Apple might eat the lunches of about three different industries over the next couple years.

If they can pull it off, if they can fix .Mac, and if they have the vision to re-imagine themselves as the company who makes your entire digital world safe, fun, ubiquitous, and flawlessly integrated.

Please share your thoughts, hopes, wishes, and remarks about MobileMe or anything else related to the Keynote announcements here in comments.

[These were quick notes I jotted this afternoon. Pardon any typos; I will fix them as I see them, as well as giving myself a day or two to add links on other coverage as it arises. I have a feeling a lot of people will be talking about MobileMe]

barnaclebarnes's picture

iDisk not really workflow friendly

The problem I have with iDisk is that it is something that sits over to the side. What I was expecting was to be able to set my sync folders. By default it would be "Documents" with the ability to ignore certain folders.

This I don't have to think about what will be added to the cloud - It will just happen.

Apart from that some nice additions - especially having a real, online, editable calendar.




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