MobileMe: Some speculation about the transition to iCloud
I'll start this post off by stating the obvious -- there's a lot about how MobileMe services will transition to iCloud that we don't know yet. But I'm going to take a stab at some of the most pressing questions we've received from TUAW readers regarding the transition. As more facts come in, we'll update this post and/or let you know in a new article.
First, let's talk about what's available in MobileMe as it stands today. The details are in that graphic above, which is taken directly from the web-based MobileMe service. There are web-based versions of Mail, Contacts (Address Book), and Calendar (iCal); there's Find My iPhone, which has already become a free service; there's iDisk, a "cloud-based storage" solution; and then there are things like Gallery and iWeb hosting.
Speculation #1: Web-based versions of Mail, Contacts, and Calendar will be de-emphasized
I'd speculate that the web-based versions of Mail, Contacts, and Calendar will get less attention going forward, and might even disappear on June 30, 2012. Seriously -- who needs them? If you have a Mac or three, you'll sync Mail, Address Book, and iCal through the free iCloud service.
The same with your iOS devices, which will send Mail, Contacts, and Calendar changes to the iCloud, where they'll all be echoed to the rest of your digital world. For Windows users, you'll be using Outlook 2010 or 2007 to sync to the iCloud. The only scenario in which you might not be able to get to your "stuff" is when you're using a public computer of some sort at a hotel, on a cruise ship, or at a cybercafé in Spain. Of course, you don't want that to happen, so you'll have your iOS device with you. Hook up to Wi-Fi or use your 3G data service, and the problem is solved. That's why they call them mobile devices.
[The counterargument would be that dropping web-based access to PIM and email from iCloud would be a pretty big competitive disadvantage for the service, compared to Google and Microsoft offerings. It's equally likely that the web components will simply flip over from MobileMe to iCloud without any new features or engineering effort -- since Apple is already doing a passable job on them. –Ed.]
Speculation #2: iDisk disappears
Apple's already stated that iCloud will back up your content -- music, photos, apps, and documents. But there's nothing out there about what will happen to your other stuff. I personally have about 15 GB of iDisk storage available to me on MobileMe, of which I've actually used about 3 GB. All of my important data is sitting out in my Dropbox, syncing between my Macs and iOS devices.
I personally don't see the need for iDisk in this world of Dropbox, but there are others who may be using iDisk since they either don't know about Dropbox and similar services or don't want to migrate to them. I think iDisk is going to go extinct, but that Apple will provide iDisk users with a variety of third-party cloud storage solutions and warn them to migrate their data well in advance. There is a full year to prepare.
Speculation #3: Gallery is toast
Gallery was Apple's way of creating web-based photo albums of your photos for sharing with friends and relatives. Once again, I can't see a need for it in the post-MobileMe world. Apple has already provided an "out" to those who want to share their photos to the world -- iPhoto supports sharing pictures to both Flickr and Facebook. I don't know what Flickr's membership is these days, but Facebook has well over 600 million users, and a good number of them may be former or current MobileMe subscribers. Those two services are perfect for photo sharing, and I'd be willing to bet that the current number of photos hosted in Gallery is a tiny fraction of the number out on Facebook or Flickr.
Another reason I think Gallery is going away is the tendency for people to use iOS devices as a sort of electronic photo album. I don't know how many times I've seen my wife show off photos of our trips to friends or complete strangers using either her iPhone or iPad. It's a lot easier than telling them to go out to some long-winded MobileMe URL to see a gallery of pictures.
Speculation #4: So long, iWeb hosting
As the author of several editions of a book on iWeb, I have a vested interest in the future of this Apple product. However, the future just doesn't look all that bright for iWeb. The software hasn't been updated recently, and there is a lot of rumbling out on the Apple Support Forums about what will happen when MobileMe disappears.
My guess? Apple will once again tell MobileMe users that they need to find their own hosting. iWeb can publish websites to a number of hosts, so it's no big deal to republish on a new one. I even wrote a post almost two years ago about how to use free Dropbox space to host an iWeb site, so there's a solution.
Finally, a significant portion of the people who set up iWeb sites initially were putting together personal sites. Many of those people have probably gone the easy route and are either letting friends know about their lives via Twitter and Facebook, or have set up sites with free services, like Blogger or WordPress.com. Nevertheless, judging by the frustration and concern on Apple's support boards, this may be one of the trickiest transitions to manage.
Before some of our readers who are adverse to change go all ballistic on me in the comments, remember what I said at the beginning -- we don't really know what's going to happen to some of these services between now and the demise of MobileMe on June 30, 2012. All of this is speculation about what will happen, based on my personal perspective.
If you have an alternative idea, or you're a disgruntled MobileMe employee who wants to spill the beans, please let us know about it in the comments or send us a tip via the "tip us" button at the top of the page.
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