This article was first published on 2008-08-15. Due to the age of this article, it is included here for archive purposes only.
If you paid any attention to the news in the past month, you know Apple rolled out a bunch of products and services a month ago and has been taking a beating in the press about how the launch didn’t live up to Apple’s rep. This is NOT what this article is about. Instead I want to tell you why I’m letting my .Mac/MobileMe account lapse this month.
Now to be be truthful, I suppose my reasons may have something to do with the botched launch. It could be that because the MobileMe folks at Apple were in such a crazed rush to launch the revamped service, they had to drop the parts I was looking forward to. And in typical Apple fashion, there was no public discussion about it.
This is odd coming from me because I usually dig everything Apple manages to do. But let’s rewind to a year ago when I signed up for .Mac. The main reason I signed up for .Mac when I did was to be able to review it and respond to you, the MFM reader. I have web hosting service elsewhere, so that takes care of any need for email and website hosting. To me, email and hosting is the key value in MobileMe. But even for these services, it’s not a good value. I admit I did go into it half heartedly.
But I was excited about trying the Groups service. In fact, I wanted to compare Google Groups to .Mac Groups with the class I taught using Google, and my kid’s teams and classrooms using .Mac. As it turns out, .Mac groups was the slightly better service. But both were badly neglected in the way of improvements and upgrades.
.Mac Groups won on the ability to not look horribly U-G-L-Y and also for allowing a hierarchy of file storage. Google groups looks like Google usually does, in that it appears to be designed by the most artistic engineer on the team.
So I was really looking forward to Apple’s team taking another run at improving Groups with the MobileMe roll out. I kept looking at the MobileMe site for indications of what will happen. No word. Finally after launch, it was acknowledged that Groups was being discontinued. Details fluctuated and some Groups were shut down without notice and then brought back from the dead. Now they are on life support with no new Groups being created and old groups can’t grow.
So, I get that Groups doesn’t fit into Apple’s vision of MobileMe, but like the rest of the launch, it was handled poorly, with a total lack of communication. Can you imagine having an active .Mac group that went down without warning when the opportunity was there for months for Apple to tell their Groups customers what to expect? That type of customer service is even beneath Apple’s competitors.
Next up: Syncing
Of course my disappointment here could be traced back to high expectations for Apple services. It’s been widely acknowledged that .Mac syncing sucked. It didn’t work for me just like the vocal detractors out there. I was planning on writing a How Do I…article on syncing, but then thought it would be out of date when MobileMe’s syncing came out and fixed all the problems. Wrong.
It appears that the Mac to Mac syncing hasn’t improved at all. It’s the same old service with a new name. Now I get that emphasis had to be on getting the iPhone syncing right. But that doesn’t mean you don’t fix the broken Mac syncing.
It’s too bad because if Apple nailed syncing multiple Macs and combined that with a working Back to My Mac service, that would be worth the whole cost of MobileMe right there. I think the rest of the MobileMe Services could be found elsewhere, often for FREE. However, syncing and Back to My Mac has the potential to be one of those Apple differentiators, something that only Apple can create.
Where’s my file sharing?
Lastly, I never got to taste it, but I had my nose pressed against the window waiting for the large file sharing service that was to be part of MobileMe. This was the part where you could seemingly "attach" a large file to an email and have the recipient click the file to begin downloading it. My guess is that you were to put the file on your iDisk and the attachment was really a shortcut to the file on your hosted account along with whatever code was needed to make the file launch a browser and begin downloading the file.
It was even demoed when MobileMe was announced. It’s now "Coming Soon".
As someone who regularly needs to send files from a few dozen MB to a few hundred MB, this service would have really come in handy AND had enough polish that I could use it professionally with clients. I think they would be so amazed that I would have looked good because of it. Now, I don’t think I would sign up for MobileMe just to get this feature, but I’d pay someone $25 a year for it. Too bad no one else is offering this level of integration because I’d be a buyer.
So where does that leave me?
The feature I most appreciate out of the existing services is MobileMe Gallery, but it’s not worth that kind of money to me. Not when Flickr is free and there are so many other good services out there. I have some family pages created with it, but I think I’ll just convert those to iWeb pages and put them on my server.
As for Groups, I think I’ll try one of my classes on Shutterfly’s new beta service. It looks to have a lot of the parts I find useful and have some design polish to boot. The only thing it appears to be lacking is the hierarchical file storage. Plus, the ability to move sections around on the page looks great. I can’t understand why Apple doesn’t compete here. It’s such a great outreach opportunity for them.
So for now, I’m going to let my membership lapse. I believe my ID remains in case they improve the service and make it worth paying for again. For now I’ll wait and see.
UPDATE: Apple has offered MobileMe subscribers and extra 2 months for free. That’s a step in the right direction. Perhaps that will buy some time to fix some of the issues and have members like me take a second look.
Where does that leave you?
How about you? Are you satisfied with the MobileMe offering? Bitter about the mismanaged launch? Let us know what you think in the Comments section below!