updated 09:45 pm EDT, Mon September 12, 2011
CEO responds to customer concerns
Representatives from new Apple CEO Tim Cook's office recently called a customer who sent an e-mail bemoaning the forthcoming loss of certain sync services and iDisk in the transition to this fall's iCloud service, and was told that the company would consider adding back some of the lost features "if there's enough feedback on the subject," AppleInsider reports. Some features of MobileMe, which cost $99 per year, are being dropped from the free iCloud service.
Apple will continue all MobileMe features until June of next year, but do not plan to include some syncing features that were popular with members, such as Keychain, application and system preferences, dock items, and Dashboard widget syncing -- which was handy for keeping multiple Macs in harmony with each other. The iCloud service also does not offer the extensive Mail syncing (accounts, signatures, rules and mailboxes) that exists in MobileMe.
Outcry has also been heard over the company's plans to discontinue iWeb-based MobileMe hosting and iPhoto's Gallery feature, along with the 20GB of iDisk space current members have. The free iCloud service will offer 5GB of personal storage at no charge, but users can optionally upgrade the storage to 15GB for $20 per year, 25GB for $40 per year, and 55GB for $100 per year.
Though iWeb-based MobileMe hosting will also be withdrawn, the iWeb program itself will continue to work and can save websites to other hosts via FTP or other uploading methods. Dropbox has proven to be a popular alternative for the small, personal websites that iWeb specialized in (with many other third-party options available), but Apple has indicated that iWeb will no longer be actively developed. As for iPhoto's Gallery feature, Flickr and other services offer a paid option that roughly corresponds to Gallery's features. Somewhat ironically, replicating all the "lost" features of MobileMe may end up costing customers only slightly less money than the previous fee for MobileMe.
Cook has carried on with former CEO Steve Jobs' tradition of occasionally answering customer e-mails directly, though calling a customer directly would have been extremely unusual during Jobs' time as CEO.
The iCloud service will offer its own range of features, some of them significant extensions or improvements over the MobileMe offerings. Automatic backups of all iTunes and Mac App Store purchases that do not count against the 5GB free personal space, for example, and instant manageable "push" syncing of content across desktops, laptops and mobile devices. There has also been code discoveries indicating that iCloud will feature significant new social features and voice command and recognition technology.
The service also automatically syncs up to 1,000 photos on other devices, and keeps contacts, calendar info and e-mail in sync as before. The company will also offer an "iTunes Matching Service" that matches songs on a user's device with an instant cloud backup from the iTunes store for an unlimited number of songs that can be synced with any mobile device on-demand for $25 per year.
Apple's iCloud service is expected to roll out along with or soon after the introduction of iOS 5 and OS X 10.7.2, which will have the necessary features to take advantage of the service. Existing MobileMe members will have access to the service automatically, though they will retain access to the MobileMe features until June of next year.
The user who heard from Cook's office is encouraging other MobileMe members to use MobileMe's feedback page to lobby Apple to keep or add services to iCloud. [via AppleInsider]