Okay, so I’ve spent much of the last 24 hours pouring through the details of Apple’s iPhone 2.0-related announcements at WWDC 2008. Of particular interest is their new MobileMe service — in their own words “(MS) Exchange for the rest of us”.
You can see a detailed video demo of the service right here at Apple’s site. The fact that they don’t allow their videos to be embedded on other web pages speaks to something that I’ll be addressing later in the post. Right now I’ll give you my specific impressions of MobileMe’s web applications feature by feature as they appear in the video, with the mutual understanding that (1) this is technically all in theory, as the service hasn’t actually launched yet, and (2) as a preemptive defence against the zombie Mac fanboy army I do in fact know what I’m talking about, having covered similar services on previous occasions. The current gold standard is Plaxo 3.0, which isn’t saying much…
Okay, let’s get to it!
Look and Feel
Right from the start page, MobileMe looks like your typically slick Web 2.0 Ajax-y site, much better than the .Mac interface that it’s set to replace — that dinosaur still has brushed metal all over it, for chrissakes!
There’s no evidence here for support of anything beyond a dedicated “@me.com” mail account. Even the Danger hiptop/Sidekick can do better than this. For prospective customers it gets even worse: Current .Mac users will be automatically migrated to MobileMe accounts, and with eight years worth of subscribers getting dibs before anyone else it’s all but guaranteed that any halfway desirable MobileMe member name is already spoken for. Those of you who’ve ponied up for paid .Mac service since 2002 can pause and be smug now.
As for me, I’m not quite ready to put firstname.lastname@example.org on a business card.
The live search is nice but really, there’s nothing here that Plaxo can’t already do for free. And there’s been nary a peep about any kind of social networking functionality. Why should I have to update my friend’s contact info if they can do it themselves and have the changes propagate over to me? That’s what Plaxo does…
Plaxo can at the very least make public the blocks of time when you’re unavailable. Google Calendar and Apple’s own desktop calendering app go a step further and give you the ability to share calendars with whomever you choose via the web or by subscription. A similar feature might still make it to MobileMe before its launch, but if that was the case you’d think they would have at least mentioned it by now.
“And with Your Permission, they can also download photos and contribute photos of their own”
Sharing stuff? Hey, waitaminnit… That’s social networking! Of course, all the shutterbugs I know have Flickr accounts. Will MobileMe be able to interact with sites like Flickr as well? Given that I can’t even embed the MobileMe video demo on this site, it doesn’t look promising.
On the desktop Apple has repeatedly won me over to their proprietary software because of the superior experience I get using it. But the very foundation of the web is links, and this service would do better to reach out than to try and beat more popular sites at their own game.
And where’s the video gallery? Oh right, the iPhone still doesn’t record video. My bad.
20GB is certainly a generous amount of online storage but remember, you’re paying for it — which brings us to…
You want HOW MUCH?!!
If MobileMe is really “Exchange for the rest of us”, then how come it’s going to cost the same exorbitant $10-plus CAD/month as a .Mac account does currently — especially when I can rent an actual hosted Exchange account with ActiveSync for nothing?
I got comparable functionality and unlimited data with my Fido hiptop for only $20/month. Taking into consideration that AT&T data plans for the iPhone are shortly going to cost more (and data rates for the device haven’t even been announced in Canada yet!) MobileMe looks like it’s going to be the same rip-off that .Mac was.
The only real justification I can see for MobileMe’s pricing is the ease of use for someone with exceptionally weak computer skills, like the lost souls who always seem to be hitting me up for free tech support. If this is the case Apple should just call a spade a spade and re-brand MobileMe as something more accurate.
“MeTard” is perhaps a tad harsh… Maybe “FleeceMe”?