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Whither .Mac?

The .Mac service turns five in July and has easily become the most stunted and neglected product that Apple offers. For $99 a year ($69 if you look around), you get an anemic and tortuously slow gigabyte of storage space for your iDisk (minus what is devoted to your .Mac e-mail account) plus a few services of wildly disparate quality. By far the best is the seamless syncing of mail, contacts, calendars, and bookmarks across multiple Macs, while easily the worst is .Mac Backup, a flagship product of the Punishment Development Group at Apple. So long-suffering .Mac users like myself should have felt an inexpressible relief at the D: All Things Digital conference when Steve Jobs was shamed in response to a question over the sorry state of .Mac. 老域名购买

"I couldn't agree with you more and we will make up for lost time in the very near future."

Unfortunately, the unease I feel is made real by Fred Vogelstein at Wired's Epicenter blog. He asserts that Apple would do better to move people off .Mac and onto Google, and the response to a question of Google's Eric Schmidt could support this.

"We're a perfect back end to the problems that they're trying to solve," Schmidt told me. "They have very good judgment on user interface and people. But they don't have this supercomputer (that Google has), which is the data centers. What they have is a manufacturing business that's doing quite well."

The question then becomes whether Apple's front end can be bolted on to Google's backend, or if Apple is simply going to point people towards Google services. If the latter is the case, then .Mac is no more, end of story. As for the former, I'm not sure it's possible. As someone who uses iWeb, I can say that there are big differences between using it with .Mac and publishing via FTP to any old web space. It comes down to server-side stuff, from comments to photo slideshows. If this kind of functionality is lost by transitioning to a Google backend, then .Mac loses again, which is why Apple should kill .Mac themselves.

Rather than attempting to artificially delineate between .Mac and OS X, Apple should simply declare .Mac's features to be part of OS X, eliminating .Mac along with the subscription price of $99 a year. This has the immediate benefit of making it unnecessary to actually fix .Mac, in the same way that Apple has yet to fix the Finder. It also makes OS X a better deal, and it's another selling point for hardware, which is where Apple currently makes its money. And if you think it unlikely that Apple would give away something like .Mac for free, they already did. Before .Mac, there were iTools, and there could be again.


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