updated 03:30 pm EDT, Thu May 22, 2008
Apple's .Mac service, once a promising method for sharing media, performing online backups and more, has paled in the presence of free alternatives and represents an untapped opportunity for Apple according to a recent report from CNET. The articles posits "$99 a year is hard to justify for the .Mac service. 10GBs of storage? I can get that for $20 from Google, and I can get much more if I want it. Photo sharing? I can do that for free on Flickr, and upload as many photos and videos as I want for $24.95 a year. Build my own Web site? Lots of services offer that capability for free."
The real value of .Mac lies in its Mac OS X integration. You can share photos from iPhoto with a single click, sync contacts and more for easy backup, and perform other useful functions from within the iLife suite and elsewhere. However, that value offer isn't proving compelling for Mac customers: the entire "Software, Service, and other sales" category that includes .Mac revenue accounted for $529 million in revenue during its most recent quarter, and Leopard upgrades counted for a large portion of that total.
Some have suggested that Apple make .Mac free -- a loss leader that would help to move more Mac and iPhone units. Alternatively, the company could dramatically reduce the price, perhaps in half, and increase the online storage capacity as well as enhance offered services. Yet still, the company could give away .Mac subscriptions with new Mac purchases.