.Mac? .Maybe

Yep! I signed up. I said I would and I did, even though I complained (some would say whined) that Apple is screwing over a lot of folks by not offering a tiered plan that features an e-mail only option. I still believe that. Apple announced yesterday (9/17/02) that 100,000 have signed up for .Mac, but I think that number could have easily been a lot more if Apple had offered a tiered plan. Thatis water still flowing under the proverbial bridge and itis not what I want to talk about.

I knew that I could use some of the features .Mac offers from the beginning. I like my @mac.com e-mail address, but so did a lot of other people, like my sweet Aunt Eunice in Ithaca. Sheis still grumbling about having to find a new address. (If youire reading this, Steve Jobs, take this as fair warning. Aunt Eunice is peeved at you about the .Mac situation and she took a file to her brand new set of dentures. If you see a little gray-haired lady grinning maliciously at you, donit grin back, run!)

I like having my home page at .Mac even though I have plenty of options to put it someplace else. I donit use the backup .Mac provides but its nice to know that itis there, same thing goes for the virus software. What I use most is the online storage. I can easily move files from work to home and back again almost without blinking. When I travel Iill be able to move my stories and photos to my online storage and know that, even if my laptop gets stolen, my precious data will still be there. Of course, there are other services that provide the same functions and features, but I was already there when I had iTools so it was a no-brainer to continue with .Mac. Thatis my story for coughing up my US$49, Iim sure there are at least 100,000 other reasons for signing on.

Now that Iive had a chance to play with .Mac and see some of the potential, I find that those of us who think .Mac is a good, though poorly offered, idea have had our beliefs validated. Make no mistake, there is a lot of potential in .Mac, but thatis really all there is right now. Apple is laying the groundwork for some really sophisticated services through .Mac, services that many more wouldnit mind paying US$99 a year for. At least, thatis what Apple hopes.

Take iCal for instance; right now itis only an interesting (and a little buggy) addition to Appleis iApps, but the potential is amazing. Apple could make iCal accessible from anywhere via a .Mac logon, meaning I could update my appointments from work and have those updates appear on my Mac at home. That would be cool. My Mac becomes a digital hub in a new respect; it becomes my digital secretary, reminding me of my appointments and important occasions via e-mail to my cell phone. The potential increases when iSync comes on board. If I have a PDA then all of my information can be updated once I log into .Mac., so even when Iim not connected I still have my data. When I do get connected again, either wired or wireless, any updates Iive made to my data gets synced automagically.


Is it worth US$99 a year? If it all worked the way I think it should, Iid pay that much.

I could sit here and prognosticate all day on all the cool ways Apple could expand on the .Mac idea, and Iim sure Apple has a game plan that would include at least some of what I could dream up. If they do nothing else, the guys and girls at 1 Infinite Loop know how to dream up some nifty stuff. The real question is, will they make it a reality?

For all of its potential, .Mac could just as easily become a white elephant, or maybe a better analogy would be a CyberDog that wonit fetch, and 100,000 people that paid real money for it. If Apple offers the wrong feature set then folks will yawn and move on. If Apple pays little attention to security then no one will buy into .Mac no matter how cool the features are. Poke at it long enough and you begin to see why Microsoftis .Net is still largely a pipe dream. It takes a lot work to get something as potentially huge as .Mac off the ground. Thereis always plenty of gotchas to bite Apple in the rear. Still, Apple is doing it, they are putting .Mac out there for better or worse. Apple is bound to make some stumbles but at least they are stumbling in the right direction, the service and its potential is plainly visible for all to see. Thatis far more than you can say for .Net, and for that you have to give Apple some dap, and just maybe your US$49.

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