Programming
Article

Apple’s MobileMe Misses the Mark

By Kevin Yank

Thousands of developers have gathered in San Francisco for Apple’s Wordwide Developers Conference 2008. The spotlight at WWDC is on the new iPhone 3G and the iTunes App Store, which is launching in July to bring (officially) native apps to iPhone and iPod touch devices, but web developers have been eyeing MobileMe, Apple’s relaunch of the .Mac service.

MobileMe logoFor users of Gmail, Google Calendar, and Picasa Web (or any of the competitors from Yahoo! and Microsoft), MobileMe is a new contender that promises to automatically push your online changes into desktop applications like Microsoft Outlook and mobile devices like the iPhone (and vice versa). Unlike its competitors, however, MobileMe shows no signs of offering open APIs for other web applications to integrate with the service.

The other big difference between MobileMe and its competitors is that MobileMe costs $99 a year. On the one hand, you can use free services that integrate with an ever-expanding range of web apps and web-enabled desktop applications; on the other hand, you can pay for a service that only integrates seamlessly across supported devices and desktop apps.

Speaking as a card-carrying Mac fan, I’ll be sticking with my non-Apple web apps for now. Thanks to their open APIs, I can use a free service like Plaxo to sync them to my desktop software and devices. The experience isn’t quite as seamless as what MobileMe will offer, but it’s close, and as a developer it’s comforting to know that my data is only a well-documented API call away.

  • dougoftheabaci

    I’m not so sure I agree with this article, yet.

    MobileMac doesn’t show a sign of a LOT of things, yet. No word on how email addresses work, how web URLs work, web-hosting features… A whole lot of things really. However, it just got announced. Once it goes live we’ll know, I guess.

    If you compare specs. to price .Mac and now Mobile Me is a complete rip-off. My hosting gives me over 500GB of space and 5TB of monthly transfer, for the same prise MobileMac gives me 20GB of space with 500GB of transfer.

    I guess the difference comes in the software and web-apps you get. I’m sure there are open source alternatives for most of it, likely all of it but I don’t know one for an iDisk equivalent just yet (if someone knows of one, especially one like BaseCamp, please let me know).

    Apple Probably justifies the price by saying, “We make the really hard stuff easy for the average person who can’t figure it out on their own.”

  • RoguePlanetoid

    Well they managed to get me.com so hopefully the website address / email addresses will be me.com/site or me@me.com which is at least short compared to live.com. However the price is a major point I expected it to be cheaper, say the price of Xbox Live for example. Not a mac user myself, the idea seems fine but the implementation and pricing is way off the mark. Nice UI experience, one hopes it is accessible and works on all browsers correctly!

  • Cheap Hosting is the real ripoff

    My hosting gives me over 500GB of space and 5TB of monthly transfer, for the same prise MobileMac gives me 20GB of space with 500GB of transfer

    You host doesn’t give you 500GB of space and 5TB of monthly transfer for $99/year. They may *advertise* it, but you are truly clueless if you think you will ever get to use it. It is physically impossible for a $8/mo shared hosting account to generate 5TB worth of bits per month without running afoul of various ‘resource limits’ that the hosts employ in their TOS for this very reason. False advertising at its finest, these budget hosting outfits should be run out of town.

  • dougoftheabaci

    @”Cheap Hosting is the real ripoff”:
    With most hosting providers, this is the case. However, if you buy hosting that is meant for hosting multiples websites on one package? Yeah you could hit that. I just topped out a client’s monthly bandwidth in the space of two days (they kept asking me to upload massive files to send to a printer).

    So I am hardly clueless. It’s not impossible, either for either hardware or software restrictions. It’s also more of the case of if I ever needed it (I’m working on a few things that will use a chunk of it) I can expect it to be there. If it’s not I get to complain to the company since no where does it say “You might not get this…” as it does for ISPs.

    Oh, and by the way, sites like YouTube use far more bandwidth than that. They have their own servers, I would imagine, but that’s proof enough that it’s possible for a site to generate that much demand.

    Also, it’s STILL more than what Apple is offering, sans software, most of which can be got from open source alternatives. All the phone-related stuff can. Like I said, I’m just looking for an iDisk alternative at this point.

  • Cheap Hosting is the real ripoff

    I just topped out a client’s monthly bandwidth in the space of two days (they kept asking me to upload massive files to send to a printer)

    You may have topped out a client’s limit in 2 days, but it certainly wasn’t 5TB. Let’s put that in perspective… if your ‘massive’ files were 1GB in size, you would have uploaded or downloaded those files a combined total of 5000 times in 2 days. Not likely.

    So I am hardly clueless. It’s not impossible, either for either hardware or software restrictions. It’s also more of the case of if I ever needed it (I’m working on a few things that will use a chunk of it) I can expect it to be there. If it’s not I get to complain to the company since no where does it say “You might not get this…” as it does for ISPs.

    Look, no offense, but you really don’t get it. You can’t push 5TB a month on a budget hosting account. It isn’t going to happen. Your host is going to find a reason to let you know you violated their TOS somehow. That’s how the budget hosting business works. You can argue all you want, but it’s pretty obvious you just assume that because your hosting company told you your plan includes 500GB/5TB, you’re going to get it. But you won’t. It’s a well known fact in the hosting business that these hosts will find a reason to cancel your account long before you approach any of these huge limits. Hence why budget hosting plans that are massively oversold without any hope of fulfillment should be avoided like the plague. But everyone’s doing it these days to stay ‘competitive’, so unfortunately it will never stop.

    Oh, and by the way, sites like YouTube use far more bandwidth than that. They have their own servers, I would imagine, but that’s proof enough that it’s possible for a site to generate that much demand.

    Sorry guy, but this really exposes your lack of insight into this business. I said it’s not possible for a $8 shared hosting account to push 5TB, and I stand by that assertion. If you have to ‘imagine’ that a site like YouTube has ‘their own servers’, then you really don’t have any place arguing about the hosting business with a guy who’s been in the industry 10+ years :)

    Look, don’t take my word for it. Go to webhostingtalk.com and search for “overselling”. You’ll find enough threads to keep you busy for days that validate what I’m trying to tell you.

    Back to the original issue – if you really think $99/year is too expensive for the service Apple is providing – then the solution is simple: don’t subscribe to the service! The Me service is well worth $8/month given it includes 20GB of online storage AND syncs all your devices. If it’s not worth $8/mo to you, then you’re clearly not in Apple’s target demographic for this service anyway. Unfortunately you’re a poster child for the unreasonable expectations that the budget hosting industry has created by advertising (but not being able to fulfill) virtually unlimited disk space and bandwidth for practically nothing.

    Good luck!

  • KieranG

    I agree with the guy above me.

    I think it’s a pretty good deal, and I’m probably going to subscribe when I get my 3G iPhone.

  • fproof

    I think MobileMe is just great. For me it was the only missing link. Right now I’m running a phpgallery, some webmail client, and I use Plaxo so sync my address book and calendar. Those things work fine, but I think you have to agree that MobileMe just looks way more user friendly. And managing everything with one interface in such an intuitive way is in my opinion a huge benefit! And being an iPhone user, I like it even more.
    I think Plaxo sold themselves right on time :-)

    And about the pricing. Well it helps of course that €1 is $1.5 these days. Besides that, I’m pretty sure that over a one year period, MobileMe will easily save me 1 hour of work. There you go… ROI. ;-)

  • Me me me em….ehem…

    Yu. I too am subscribing. If nothing else then for the push capability. It would be awesome not to have to connect the iphone every 2 days just for contacts or calendar appointments! And, its something that Apple wouldn’t permit anyone else to build on!

  • Rick Blalock

    I’ve been paying for .Mac service for a while and I love it. I used to use Gmail, Google Apps, Plaxo, etc. but got sick of having everything in different places. Yeah sure the open api that Plaxo and other platforms are using now is cool but I don’t like having to worry about it. I also have gotten annoyed with poorly built desktop versions of the stuff to make it feel like you aren’t working out of a browser.

    .Mac (now mobileMe) solved my problems perfectly by syncing the data on both my laptops and my iMac. The apps work great on all my machines too. My only complaint was it wasn’t JUST like Exchange…..which now it sounds like it will be.

    Also, the author is complaining that Apple doesn’t have an open api for their services when I think the big emphasis has always been that .Mac can be interfaced with Mac’s OS APPLICATIONS and not web apps. There are plenty of programs out there that integrate into .Mac’s sync, it’s addressbook, calendar, etc. So I’m not sure the goal for .Mac/mobileMe is the same as a PLAXO or Gmail. Instead, it’s a cool, cheap version of Exchange, screen and file sharing, and place to sync all my data. (for instance, I use Transmit and it syncs with .Mac so that all my FTP information for all my sites are available on any computer, anytime).

    I suppose if you only needed to keep track of a calendar and contacts, a free solution would be your best bet but for me $99 is well worth it considering a lot of people pay that much for Exchange….which doesn’t give near the benefits.

  • dougoftheabaci

    This is what gets me. The push-related features are all available via a third party: http://www.funambol.com/

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