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Apple’s Mobile Me Takes On Exchange, Mobile Mesh

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Daniel Eran Dilger
Coyly billed as “Exchange for the rest of us,” Apple’s new Mobile Me targets consumers with a subscription service that offers a suite of web apps paired with push web services to keep users in sync between their computers and mobile devices. It’s the new .Mac, and offers something Microsoft has yet to match in its plans for Live Mesh.
Mobilize Me.
Apple is offering Mobile Me as the first of its two Exchange Server alternatives. Mobile Me will appear first later this year as a subscription based web service that serves as the next generation of .Mac. Subscribers to the $99 plan (and current .Mac members) will get 20 GB of online storage, 200 GB of data transfer, and access to a suite of online, AJAX-powered web apps paired with matching “direct from the cloud” push services vended from the new me.com domain:

Mail: an online version of OS X’s desktop Mail client, offers drag and drop email sorting, a quick reply feature (below), automatic address completion, and delivers mobile push email to the iPhone and iPod touch. Just as existing .Mac accounts, it will also be accessible from and kept in sync (both items and mailbox folders) on standard desktop clients including Apple’s Mail and Windows’ Outlook on the PC.

mobile me mail

Contacts: the online version of Address Book, keeps online contacts updated with photos and addresses that pop up a Google Map location finder. Just as with Mobile Me email, online contacts will sync over the air (rather than only through iTunes) with the iPhone and iPod Touch, so changes made in either location will be updated everywhere within seconds. It also syncs with the desktop Address Book and Windows’ Outlook/Outlook Express or the Windows Contacts equivalent in Vista.

mobile me contacts

Calendar: an online version of iCal entirely missing from .Mac, this allows users to schedule items or create invitations online that are kept up to date on mobile and desktop systems, including support for multiple, color coded calendars, another feature currently missing on the iPhone (which currently only supports viewing a single calendar). The online calendar client appears to be based on the one developed for Mac OS X Leopard Server, using the same drag and drop event creation and editing used by its Wiki / iCal Server powered web calendar. Again, mobile push updates are all over the air rather than requiring an iTunes sync via the the iPhone or iPod dock. Desktop sync works with both iCal and Outlook.

mobile me calendar

Gallery: the new incarnation of .Mac’s Web Gallery, this element of the Mobile Me web app suite works as a basic, online version of iPhoto for viewing photos and movies. Once photos are uploaded directly using the web, from iPhoto 08, or from the iPhone, they are instantly viewable from the web. Friends and family can scrub albums for previews, view home movies online in better than DVD quality, download printable versions of photos, upload their own shots into an album, or view Gallery albums using Apple TV (just as they can right now with the low profile .Mac Web Gallery).

mobile me gallery

iDisk: rounding out the Mobile Me apps is a “personal hard disk online,” based on the existing iDisk but offering a new web app interface that makes uploading and downloading files easy. Files are presented in a Mac OS X Finder-like environment with both column and Mac OS style list views, both of which support drag and drop folder organization and file preview.

“You can share a file that’s too big to email,” Apple explains online, with a demonstration showing how to send an email notification of a file posted to iDisk so that the recipient can download it, optionally using password protection and/or an expiring temporary URL.

mobile me idisk

The profile of all these web applications is raised by a shared toolbar, which finally makes the value of .Mac more obvious to users confused as to why they’d pay for online disk storage and email available elsewhere for free, albeit littered with ads. There is no online advertising in Mobile Me, outside of the fact that the now very cross platform friendly service clearly promotes the Mac OS X interface.

I’d like to Exchange this Live Mesh, It’s Small and Ugly.
In addition to one upping the features of Exchange Server, a product Microsoft does currently not even offer to consumers as a hosted subscription service, Mobile Me fires a cannon hole through the sails of Microsoft’s recently announced Live Mesh service.

Live Mesh, currently in beta, intends to someday create a Ring of synced computers and mobile devices that work just like today’s .Mac, except that it was announced as only offering half the online storage capacity (5 GB), relies heavily on a Windows-only client that must be installed separately, and offers a convolutedly byzantine, text heavy interface that only a devoted Windows Enthusiast could defend.

Mobile Me takes .Mac in the opposite direction, greatly simplifying its already functional features into a very visual suite of standard web apps that can be accessed from any standard browser while doubling its storage capacity at the same price as the existing .Mac and working across the Mac and Windows PC platforms. Mobile Me also ties in integration with the iPhone and iPod Touch, the mobile WiFi platform for which Microsoft has no rival in place.

 Staffblog Archives Livemesh10

Today @ PC World Microsoft Live Mesh: A Closer Look in Pictures

No .Mac Community Features.
While Apple delivered upon the strategies that I described in relation to push email, contacts, calendar; graphics; and online file access, and has tied up .Mac with the iPhone in a bid to sell more subscriptions just as I surmised, the company didn’t tap into any of the community features I conceived a couple years ago related to hyperblogging, reputation, user profiles, an online store, and iTunes tie-ins, among others.

Perhaps Apple has no interest in pushing out its own community networking features because that segment hasn’t done much but churn fickle users over the last decade. The company has instead set out to create the most real value for consumers. Providing pioneering push email, contacts and calendar services on top of multiple-computer syncing and .Mac’s other existing features will certainly make the new Mobile Me service far more attractive to the 27.5 million Mac OS X installed base and the 6 million current iPhone users interested in an easy to use data cloud of web services.

Apple isn’t just confronting Exchange in the consumer market; it’s also taking Microsoft on directly with the upcoming Snow Leopard Server, as the next article describes: Snow Leopard Server Takes on Exchange, SharePoint

Filling the Unlocked iPhone Gap with .Mac

Filling the Unlocked iPhone Gap with .Mac
Apple – MobileMe

WWDC 2008: New in Mac OS X Snow Leopard

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19 comments

1 kibbled_bits { 06.10.08 at 2:16 pm }

Nice, the next step perhaps is to offer this as an enterprise solution, much like Google Enterprise. Although it wouldn’t have to compete directly.

2 labrats5 { 06.10.08 at 2:30 pm }

While mobile me is definitely a huge step forward, there are still a few things missing that would make it a must buy for almost everyone.

1) RSS: For me personally, I live in my RSS reader, which right now is Google Reader. It is only web based, so I can’t do anything if I’m not online, and the interface is a bit slow, but because it is online I can use the excellent Google Reader web app for my iphone, and the updates appear on all my devices. Still, I am missing the clients side features of other RSS readers. A great RSS app for Mobile Me would probably be my most used feature.

2) Community features: As you said, communnity features would be a big plus for Mobile Me. The way I feel it should be implemented is by bundling iWeb with each purchase. Making your own web page, with no extra cost, is extremely cool. Mobile Me will probably never supplant Facebook or Myspace as a friend finder, but it can compete as a way to express yourself and your ideas to the internet.

3) Web Apps: Facebook really took off when it became a dev platform for web apps, but mobile me has vastly more potential. The push and syncing service is perfect for tons of apps, many of which were announced for the iphone yesterday. Eliminating background apps wherever possible is a good thing regardless of platform: it’s just more obvious on phones. Push everything is a huge selling point and could really make mobile me take off as a developer platform for Web/client hybrid apps.

I will be subscribing to mobile me when it comes out. This is coming from someone who is extremely cheap and never used .mac. But there is vastly more potential here. Hopefully it is only a matter of time before Apple taps into it.

3 jfatz { 06.10.08 at 4:58 pm }

Here’s a real question for Apple and a truly annoying matter for me… Why in TARNATION do they not spend more time supporting the big alternative programs on Windows? I have to use a PC, but I’m perfectly well able to live without Office apps, Outlook, or any of that crap… Why aren’t they more obviously supporting apps from Thunderbird to Lightning/Sunbird (iCal, for chrissakes!) to Picasa to any of the OpenOffice apps?

Isn’t part of the way to reducing Microsoft’s dominance to make it irrelevant to use their apps on their own damn platform? But time and time again, if I want to use Apple’s services, I’m encouraged to use Microsoft’s apps on my Windows PC.

That’s ASIDE from the fact that it’d be nice to bring Linux users into the fold as well, by supporting apps that work on their platform too.

The web-based move is making certain things irrelevant, but if you’re going to be supporting full-fledged desktop apps anyway, give us options!

4 khurt { 06.10.08 at 10:52 pm }

@ jfatz – I am not sure what you are trying to say? As an Apple shareholder, I certainly hope the company is focused on growing their business and profits and not on “reducing Microsoft’s dominance”.

5 idkidd { 06.10.08 at 11:05 pm }

So if I can see IDisk in the finder just as though it’s a normal drive on my Mac, does that mean that I could do something like run an accounting program on my Mac at work and separate Mac at home but have both of them accessing and writing to the same data file stored in my iDisk? I’m guessing no as it sounds like you can preview files but to actually use them you need to download.

If the above is not possible now, is it that far off?

6 lmasanti { 06.10.08 at 11:28 pm }

@ jfatz
I think business use Microsoft products and that’s the reason why Apple take on those products: to get the business people.

OTOH, I do not like too much the “Mobile Me” name. I also can sync desktop Macs… So, something like “Sync Me” would seem more appropiate to me.

7 jfatz { 06.11.08 at 4:27 am }

@khurt

Microsoft’s monopoly is what strangles all other competition including Apple, so in the end any bit you shave off them is a bit Apple can snap up, or a barrier or expectation that’s reduced for consumers, making their possible transition to OS X easier. Plus, there’s pretty much only ever one major competitive consumer app that is NOT Microsoft’s in any particular category, so it wouldn’t be difficult to support. Apple would be growing their business even more WHILE helping to reduce Microsoft’s influence. If they’re not going to hop and offer Mail or iCal on Windows, it’d be rather nice if they don’t encourage me to adopt Outlook.

@lmasanti

I know WHY they support it, and I would expect them to support Outlook first and foremost. But it would be pretty easy for them to ALSO support the likes of Thunderbird and Lightning/Sunbird.

8 kibbled_bits { 06.11.08 at 1:20 pm }

Just when I got used to the .mac name and started liking it.

Mobile Me doesn’t do it for me, but perhaps it will grow on me.

9 jfatz { 06.11.08 at 1:25 pm }

They’re building a platform that extends beyond the Mac, so continuing to associate only with them is not precisely beneficial. (Plus, I never really like the .NET association.)

It’s kind of a goofy name, but then I really didn’t like “MacBook” when it came out either, and at this point it’s fine. Could they have found something “i”-named that wouldn’t be pretty much as goofy…? Not sure.

10 jfatz { 06.11.08 at 2:26 pm }

Hrm… This might help, if it works well and on Windows: ( http://news.worldofapple.com/archives/2008/06/10/apple-gives-developers-safari-4-preview/ )

“Safari 4 adds the ability to Save a webpage as an application, similar functionality to the third-party application Fluid.”

11 WWDC08: New in Mac OS X Snow Leopard — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 06.12.08 at 2:03 pm }

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12 jeremy { 06.13.08 at 10:52 am }

The fact that Apple has overhauled their online services is a pretty good sign that are interested in doing more in this area. While new features for .Mac have been few and far between, given the association Mobile Me has with the iPhone, I suspect this could become a rapid developing platform. Therefore we may well see some of the aforementioned features.

I agree that syncing with Mozilla apps would be useful (there are many people already using Thunderbird who wouldn’t switch to Outlook), though perhaps that could be developed as a third party extension. Provided the protocol specs are available in some form.

13 lmasanti { 06.14.08 at 2:17 pm }

One good question would be “Which direction will ‘mobile.me’ take?”
.mac was a “place to show” photos, pages, etc.
mobile.me is a “place to connect”.

Will it have “iWork-like” applications?
Or more on the social direction?

14 Cocoa for Windows + Flash Killer = SproutCore — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 06.14.08 at 6:43 pm }

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17 transfer ipod to hard disk { 07.08.08 at 3:52 am }

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