This week the registered users of Apple's MobileMe service received notification that MobileMe was being shut down.
"Your MobileMe subscription will be automatically extended through June 30, 2012, at no additional charge. After that date, MobileMe will no longer be available." the email stated. Many people, Steve Jobs included judging by his comments about MobileMe during the Apple WWDC conference this week, will be glad to see it go.
Starting life as Mac OS only iTools and the .mac services, MobileMe offered to drop the Mac only focus to provide an email address at me.com with mail synchronisation, contacts and a calendar. Over time cloud storage (iDisk) and a Find my iOS Device service (which uses the device geolocation functionality) has been added.
Launching in July 2008 MobileMe had a few hiccups in the first month and has seen multiple outages for upgrades and maintenance since.
Steve Jobs has admitted that MobileMe was “not up to Apple’s standards”. In an email Jobs wrote to Apple employees and leaked to Ars Technica , Jobs said that “it was a mistake to launch MobileMe at the same time as iPhone 3G, iPhone 2.0 software and the App Store”. That was August 2008, only a month after the launch.
Fast forward to June 2011, MobileMe is nowhere to be seen. Retail boxes have been removed from all Apple Stores, and users are prevented from subscribing via Apple's website. Searching the apple.com.au website for MobileMe still returned help forums and MobileMe content, but the ability to sign up is gone.
In its place? iCloud. Apple claim iCloud will offer significantly improved email, contacts, calendar and photo applications, and add backup, iTunes in the cloud, Apps, books and documents.
Users who subscribed and paid for the MobileMe service will be able to keep their MobileMe email address and move their email, contacts, calendars and bookmarks to the new service which will also provide 5Gb of ‘cloud’ storage for Mail, Documents and Backup free. Purchased Music, apps, books and Photo Stream do not count against the storage limit.
iCloud will launch in Australia in Spring 2011 but may not include one of the most impressive new features, iTunes Match.
According to the press release iTunes Match, a service which recognises music you have ripped from CDs you own and provides you rights to have those same songs available from the iTunes library, will be available in the US only for $24.99USD per year.
How users will migrate their existing MobileMe data, or if Apple will provide options for users who currently store closer to the 19Gb iDisk allowance with MobileMe is unknown. It’s seems likely users will be able to buy more storage once iCloud is released but Jobs has been clear he wants iCloud to be “more than just a hard drive in the sky”.
That’s understandable. The ‘hard drive in the sky’ product space is getting very competitive, with most solutions including 2Gb free storage (DropBox, ZumoDrive, about 100 others) and some offering significantly more capacity like Microsoft’s SkyDrive (25Gb free) or Google’s Apps storage (which charges $5 per extra 20Gb over the included apps allowance).
Recent discussion on the security of cloud storage has highlighted it’s not all just about how much storage space is available. Jobs confirmed that connectivity to iCloud would be encrypted but AppleIDs are still only protected by a password which Apple allow to be a string like ‘123456’. No 2FA, no complex password requirements, and seemingly no limit to the number of times I can try to guess an AppleID password via https://auth.me.com/authenticate.
Security aside, according to the WWDC presentation led by Jobs, iCloud will be a significant change to previous Apple cloud offerings and will be completely integrated with iOS and Mac OSX. The integration of iCloud into as many iOS applications as possible, making iCloud the default choice for developers, is a significant opportunity for Apple and something Apple clearly recognise.
During the announcement of iCloud and iOS5, Apple also provided a suite of APIs for developers who can build iCloud functionality into apps right away. If iCloud takes off with developers, Apple may quickly become a threat to Google Apps and other cloud driven office applications and services.
With 200 million iOS devices sold and the claim of being the number one mobile OS with 44% of the mobile market, the next 12 months are certainly going to be interesting. In Spring, all iPhone, iPad, Mac OSX Lion users and iTunes users on Windows OS will have access to an integrated, seamless, cable-less app, music, calendar, document and photos hosting and publishing environment for free.
By tightly binding iCloud into the iLife suite of products and providing integration with Apple software applications across the entire Apple product range, Apple may succeed in making desktops and PCs just one of many devices used to create, edit and publish content.
|Documents created on an iPad can be synchronised with iCloud. iCloud then automatically synchronises the document with up to 10 devices. How to control which documents may be distributed to devices that are logged in as the AppleID used to upload the document is unclear.|
Music stored in iCloud via iTunes is distributed to all iTunes devices automatically and immediately.
Controlling data usage for mobile 3G devices may become impossible.
"Today it is a real hassle and very frustrating to keep all your information and content up-to-date across all your devices," Jobs said. "iCloud keeps your important information and content up to date across all your devices. All of this happens automatically and wirelessly, and because it’s integrated into our apps you don’t even need to think about it — it all just works."
What can you do? Ban iTunes on all computers and remove Mac OSX and iOS devices from your network? For now probably not, but a review of corporate data use policies before September 2011 may have just made it to your top 5 most important things to do.