The debate that’s as old as the hills continues to rage in Mac user circles. Is it Mac vs. PC? Nope. It’s, “is MobileMe really worth the money?” The answer is simple. It depends.
Apple has never been a company content to just match the specs of another company’s products. In the case of MobileMe, is there an alternative for Mac or Windows users? Or, is MobileMe just Microsoft Exchange for the rest of us? Whatever it is, MobileMe does not stir the raging fires of ambivalence. We love it. Or, we hate it.
The Past Is History
MobileMe, even as a reincarnation of the old .Mac service, has a checkered past. I bought into .Mac from the beginning; partly out of loyalty to Apple, partly to get the @mac.com email account, and partly to park files someplace where I could get to them regardless of where I was at the moment.
Value? Puhleeze. .Mac was valuable only, only if you truly placed an inordinate weight on the one or two features (out of 112) that made sense for you. Otherwise, .Mac was a humbug grab bag assortment of little features combined in such a way as to add up to $100, whether you needed the features or not.
Apple, ever alert to changing tastes and the direction of the wind emanating from Mac users wholly dissatisfied with .Mac, and sensing a need to give the new iPhone a way to connect wirelessly to exchange data with a Mac, and sensing a larger customer base of Windows PC users flocking to the Mac, decided to… uh, change the name to MobileMe.
MobileMe was born as Exchange for the Rest of Us, and promptly kicked under the table by Mac users and The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg.
Unfortunately, after a week of intense testing of the service, I can’t recommend it, at least not in its current state. It’s a great idea, but, as of now, MobileMe has too many flaws to keep its promises.
Apple apologized and worked diligently to fix the problems and make MobileMe a worth addition to Apple’s storied software line. It took time to heal the wounds.
A year or so later and I admit that I’ve totally forgotten about MobileMe. It just works. But I’m a focused user. I want one set of features and the rest I just don’t care about. The rest?
With MobileMe, you can create a beautiful web gallery of your photos in just a few clicks. Add new photos directly from your iPhone.
Yeah, like Flickr. Only less free. MobileMe’s Gallery is the most anemic component. It’s there, fine. If not, fine. The family jewels are elsewhere and more than worth the annual price of admission.
One Trick Pony
Here’s how Apple bills MobileMe today.
MobileMe is a service that pushes new email, contacts, and calendar events over the air to all your devices. So your iPhone, Mac, and PC stay in perfect sync. No docking required.
MobileMe does that and does it well. My husband and I share calendars and address book. What changes on my iPhone, changes on his iPhone, and changes on both of our Macs.
Three More Tricks
Wait. There’s more. In addition to the email account most of us never use, MobileMe also has iDisk which is a nice online repository for files that can be synced or accessed back and forth between Mac and PC, or iPhone and Mac, or whatever.
iDisk makes it easy to store and share files online so you can access them anytime from any computer, or even from your iPhone.
This is great for those larger files that just don’t go anywhere via email. Wait. There’s more. I did say three more tricks, right? MobileMe has a few other built-in features specifically for iPhone users. Find My iPhone. Wipe My iPhone.
If you lose your iPhone, and it’s still on and connected, MobileMe lets you log on from any internet connect computer and find it (or, get close enough to call out the hounds), or wipe it clean, erase the contents, prevent your valuable data from falling into the hands of ruthless enemy combatants unafraid of life at Gitmo.
Is MobileMe worth it? Is it worth an annual tax of $99? If you need those aforementioned features, sans the Gallery, MobileMe is worth it, Andy Ihnatko’s “it’s complicated” response notwithstanding. Why? Focus.
.Mac was an unfocused melange of unassorted, unrelated features trying to be something of value. MobileMe has focus now, works well, and has value. It just works. Almost.
One More Thing™: Don’t get me started on Back to my Mac, the MobileMe service which lets you screen share from your Mac on the road to your Mac back at home or the office. There’s a reason why Apple buries the features deep in their promotional material. Has anyone been able to get it to work?