updated 11:02 pm EDT, Fri June 1, 2012
Users must download and move materials
Apple wants MobileMe users to know that they have just 30 days left to download a copy of their iPhoto Gallery pictures, iWeb websites and iDisk stored files before the service is shuttered permanently. To that end, the company has emailed a large yellow countdown sign reading "30 days left" to users as a blatant reminder. Though the free iCloud takes on some of the features of MobileMe, these three areas have not been carried over and will disappear at the end of this month.
When Apple announced iCloud it also told MobileMe users that it was shuttering the service, but extended the membership of all current members for up to a year to leave them time to make other arrangements for some of the services (like photo and video hosting) that wouldn't continue under iCloud. Apple replaced MobileMe with iCloud, a free service (where MobileMe had cost $100 per year) that takes over the e-mail, contact, calendar and bookmark syncing that had been a staple feature of MobileMe, but drops all of the old hosting services that were less-used by appreciated by those who took advantage of it.
For most users, preserving files and images will be less difficult that many might imagine. Most people's iPhoto Gallery pictures are already "backed up" as photos in the iPhoto Library, and for those that are not, the photos can usually be re-downloaded at full resolution directly from the gallery (users may need to "turn on" that setting in their iPhoto Gallery controls).
The iDisk's contents can (and for many users already are) mirrored on a local backup, the contents of which can simply be moved to another area or drive before the cutoff date. Users can re-upload the contents to their expanded 20GB iCloud storage (good till September) but do not enjoy the same level of web access and sharing of those contents as they had on MobileMe.
Websites hosted on MobileMe that were made in iWeb can simply be "published to a folder" or uploaded to a new hosting service that the user must find and purchase themselves through the built-in FTP client in iWeb. Though Apple has discontinued iWeb, the program still works and creates websites that can be hosted elsewhere.
Users who complained about MobileMe's $100 a year fee may find to their chagrin that relocating all the services they may have leveraged with Apple will now cost them at least as much or more each year using an arrangement of third-party sites that lack the elegant integration MobileMe offered. While iCloud now handles the most popular services (e-mail and syncing, in fact offering new kinds of syncing not seen on MobileMe, such as automatic backup and sync of most iTunes purchases), users who wish to continue sharing photos, videos, websites and having web access to large quantities of files will now have to find third-party companies to do this.
For those interested in maintaining the extra storage given to MM users now on iCloud beyond September, it will cost former MobileMe users either $20 per year (for a total of 15GB of storage) or $40 per year (for a total of 25GB of storage). Thus far, it appears that iTunes podcasts (or videos, slideshows and other media hosting) can't be stored on iCloud due to the lack of RSS support.
A number of companies have sprung up to help host Mac users' personal files in a variety of ways. For example, Yahoo's Flickr service offers a "pro" level at $25 per year that claims to allow unlimited photo and video hosting at full resolution. Podcast hosts like Buzzsprout tailor their offerings to iWeb-based and other types of shows, with an emphasis on continuing the iTunes catalog placing of the podcast.
Numerous website hosting companies will take on an iWeb site for various levels of fees, but generally most users will be looking at at least $100 per year and may find their monthly bandwidth allotment quite curtailed compared to MobileMe, which only ever had vague guidelines to prevent abuse and laxly enforced them. Storage of personal files in the cloud can be easy to find, but those with more than 5GB of material will usually have to pay at least $5 per month (and often more than that) to keep the files available in a manner as easy (though often decried as unnecessarily slow) as iDisk. MobileMe's iDisk service offered a total of 20GB included in the standard package, far more than most cloud-based servers offer in free or low pricing plans.
For those who didn't use the Gallery, iDisk or iWeb features of MobileMe much or at all, the transition will be very smooth. Users must be running at least one device that is on either iOS 5 or Mac OS X Lion in order to upgrade to iCloud. The company has a guide on its website, but testing by MacNN on various accounts showed the process to be smooth and painless, particularly for e-mail. Duplicated calendar entries or contacts may sometimes appear, but is quickly solved by unchecking the syncing of these services in the iTunes preferences for a given device.
Users who upgrade to iCloud can keep their @mac.com or @me.com email addresses, and others who can't or won't upgrade to iCloud may be able to retain the addresses for the purposes of Apple IDs after June 30 (Apple has not been completely clear on this point) but will lose their e-mail service and calendar or contact syncing after that date.