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.Mac? Maybe .Screwed!

Just A Thought - .Mac? Maybe .Screwed!

by , 9:00 AM EDT, July 18th, 2002

I recently changed my ISP. I had Earthlink before but a local provider offered DSL while Earthlink continue to claim they couldn't give it to me. So I jumped ship. Now I have high speed access and a new e-mail address, which I had to tell all my friends about. What a pain! I had to change my business cards, my automatic signature, and the return address I mark on the waistband of my Underroos.

You never realized how many places you put your e-mail address until you have to change it. Many of my friends have Yahoo! e-mail addresses (OK, I only have 5 friends and 4 have Yahoo! e-mail addresses. That still counts.) The reason why is because they wanted to have an e-mail address that is independent of the ISP they happen to have at the moment. Good idea, and I thought I was achieving the same thing when I got my mac.com address. Sweeter still was the notion of having the 'mac.com' at the end of my e-mail address. Boy, was I ever wrong!

Back when Apple was trying to prove to everyone just how easy it was to get online with an iMac, mac.com accounts were given out like so much candy. It was easy to use, convenient, and free, and every iMac owner could automatically have e-mail, a Web page, and other niceties just by owning a Mac. Little did we realize that it was a ploy worthy of shady used car salesmen who practice the ol' bait-n-switch routine, or worse, worthy of Microsoft.

OK, that may be a bit strong since Apple may not have had any intentions of charging for iTools when it was first conceived, but the effect is the same. I signed on believing that, at the very least, I would always have 'mac.com', even if I was charged some fee. I was not naive enough to think that Apple would continue to offer such services for little more than a smile, but I never thought Apple would be so crude about the change.

Apple has deemed it necessary to charge for the services they provide. That's OK by me; I understand that it cost real money to maintain services. What I don't understand is Apple's callous termination of iTools with barely a notice and no options but to pay $100 a year to keep what you had used for free. Now, Aunt Eunice in Ithaca, whom I convinced to buy that iMac last year, and whom I convinced to use mac.com for her e-mail address is left wondering just what to do now. I had a helluva time sending out e-mails to my friends telling them that my address changed, Aunt Eunice will have a tougher time of it because she is nowhere near as savvy as I am about such things (and she has far more friends). All of her pictures that she used to show off her nieces and nephews will be discarded like so much trash if Aunt Eunice isn't johnny-on-the-spot with her yearly subscription. She may have thought that iTools was a part of buying the iMac and her Web page was as much a part of her Mac as the mouse. Now she is forced to finding an alternative or come up with $100 ($50 if she hurries and signs up before Sept. 30 2002). No other options; nice having you on board now pay up or get off.

As I said, I understand Apple's need to charge for the services it provides, but Steve Jobs could have come up with a better plan. Apple could have continued to provide iTools for 6 months to a year to give people time to decide what to do. It could just continue providing iTools but reducing the services to just e-mail and perhaps no Web page space. It could then charge $10 a month for the enhanced services, which I would be happy to pay for, by the way. There are any number of options that don't require a lot of overhead to accomplish and still come out looking like a hero to Apple customers instead of looking like a heel.

I'm going to subscribe to .Mac because it looks like a good product and I really can use it, and I still believe in Apple, even if it doesn't seem to give a dead rat's rear about me or Aunt Eunice in Ithaca. Whether you subscribe or not is your business, but I strongly urge you to let Apple know that the current all-or-nothing option with iTools and .Mac is unsatisfactory, and that you are disappointed that Apple would choose such a way to let us know about it. Be civil, but be real and explain how this decision affects you and those who could be potential Apple customers. Let's see if Apple is still listening to us.

These are, indeed, trying financial times and Apple must do what it can to stay in business, but it should never resort to plaid sports jacket business practices. Leave that on the used car lots.

NOTE: There is mention of an e-mail-only option buried way down in the Mail Help documents. You can buy additional e-mail accounts for $10 a year each, IF you're a .Mac member. It doesn't say anything about ONLY having an e-mail account, which would be an excellent option for Aunt Eunice in Ithaca. I hope Apple moves quickly and clears up the confusion this whole .Mac announcement has created.

To read this buried tidbit go to the .Mac tab on Apple's site then click on the "Help" on the silver menu bar. That will bring up a new .Mac Help Window. Select 'On Your Desktop' under the Mac.com Email option. Scroll down to the very bottom. There are selections that talk about e-mail-only accounts. This is from the "Converting your .Mac trail account to an email-only account:"

To convert your trial account to e-mail-only, go to www.mac.com. Click Account in the .Mac menu bar, then click the Email Account Management button. Enter the member name and password of the trial account you'd like to convert, then click Convert. Print your account information for future reference, then click Continue.

Thanks to 'Annonymous Mac User' for pointing this out.

Vern Seward is a frustrated writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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