Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mesh: Me May Be For Me (But Not Everyone)

MobileMe, formerly .Mac, is something from Apple that strikes me as one of its products that shows great potential (if Apple can manage to get it to work 100% of the time).  Anyone who knows about .Mac, let's just forget about it entirely and see MobileMe as it stands today.

As a long-time Mac user, I was drawn to the iPhone like moth to a light bulb.  It was instinctive and natural. That isn't to say I'm a fanboy.  Nothing wrong with fanboys/girls of all flavors.  I think it's quite good for a company such devotees that will stick with them through even cloudy days.  But with today's economic reality and certain expectations (Apple innovations), there are limits even for devoted Apple customers.  Apple TV, while with a lot of potential, remains a "hobby" and no one lined up days ahead of its launch.

That's where I think MobileMe is right now.  For a $99 a year, you get everything you got from .Mac and now the main feature is "push" for mail, contacts, and calendar for the iPhone.  This feature is only available for the iPhone and not computers yet (there is a 15 min reload built in.  Apple has said it'll stop calling it "push" until they can work it out).

For anyone who do not have an iPhone or have the need to have your e-mails instantly, is MobileMe worth it?  That's the question many, including long-time Apple followers and observers, are asking. 

With Mesh Live, Google Apps, and a plethora of other Web 2.0 alternatives (also check out dropbox and xdrive) offering some of the same features for free (san push mail to a mobile device), why pay $99 a year?

In fairness to Apple, my opinion is that it has distanced itself from its competitors in integrating software, hardware, and, now, web apps together that work very well.  Apparently, a lot of people are finding that out. 

Still, MobileMe isn't for every mobile warrior.  Let's be very honest.  If you are not on OS X Leopard (10.5), you could be left out soon.  Already Apple has an MobileMe update for its newest OS but not Tiger (10.4).  Depending on your perspective, there's good and bad in that.

If you're on a PC, there is no iLife.  That means no Mail or iCal.  To use MobileMe on a PC, you have to use Outlook.  There's good and bad in that too.  So what are you left with if not MobileMe?  Plenty as it turns out. 
  • Live Mesh - because a lot of features are not available, it's hard to tell what kind of experience we'll be getting.  Microsoft is also tight-lipped about the cost.  My guess is it depends on the market conditions and their competition.
  • Google Apps - you already know what you're getting.  It's not as integrated as I hope with mobile devices.  The Google App for the iPhone is a toe in the door for mobility.  I would not call it a decent start.  I look for it to improve over time.  If so, this could be good for Android mobile devices.
  • Yahoo - They've got a lot going for it.  Engrossed in a proxy battle and other distractions such as a shrinking search share and dealing with
  • Amazon - They've got S3.  They've also got Kindle.  They would be crazy not to leverage their assets and turn Kindle into a mobile platform like the iPod Touch.  Perhaps there's a skunk lab already working on this.  Deep within, you know...the Amazon...(sorry...)
  • Sun - Hydrazine based on JavaFX.  I don't think we'll see anything for a while.  I mention Sun because of its past tech contributions.  At this time, I am not hopeful.
Then there is always the option of building your own Mesh or MobileMe services.  Plenty of my friends have built photo and file sharing services for personal uses for years now.  MobileMe offers 20 GB of storage while Live Mesh offers 5GB. 

Every mobile user has different needs.  At the moment, MobileMe transition is not going as smoothly as Apple or users would like.  If push is important, Blackberries may be the way to go as it is more robust.  And if you don't think $99 is worth it, transiting to another service may not be all that difficult.  Here's someone who already have.

Like the article asked:  Any of you switching from MobileMe to Google?  Particularly those with their terms coming to an end soon?

Note:  The reason I went ahead with a .Mac account is because I really like the iWeb integration with .Mac and allows you to use your own domain name.  It works well and it includes many of Google's web features.  I'm also using Rapidweaver for the Mac and it seems more robust than iWeb and just as easy to use. 

Now with push mail, it could be neat to have my pertinent information right on my phone.  My MobileMe subscription does not run out until December so there is plenty of time for me to decide.  Maybe if Apple can get it to work full time, I might find it beneficial enough to keep the service.

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