MobileMe: Exchange For The Rest Of Us

At WWDC last month, Apple unveiled it’s new MobileMe Service.  Adding on to and taking over the previous “dot mac”, MobileMe is an even more well rounded solution.  Along with updated name, Apple has added a number of new “Push” services.  Push email, contacts, and calendar to be specific.

How Does It Work?

Along with MobileMe comes Apple’s move to cloud computing.  This will be nothing new to those familiar with Exchange, but does simplify things a bit.  So how does it work?  Imagine you are at the computer and add a friend to your list of contacts.  A day later you have yet to sync your iPhone, but you are away from the office and need to give that friend a call.  With MobileMe, gone is the inconvenience that would normally require a drive back to the house or office to get that number.  As soon as you add that contact’s information to Address Book on your Mac, it is instantly sent up to the “cloud”, then resent back down to your Mac, PC, and or iPhone / iPod touch.

Native App Support

Whether you’re on a Mac or PC, MobileMe will become a viable method of accessing your email, contacts, and calendar where ever you go.  The iPhone 2.0 software takes MobileMe a step further, truly insuring that you always have access to your data when you need it. MobileMe works with the following software across platforms:

-Outlook on the PC
-Mail, Address Book, and iCal on the Mac
-Mail, Contacts, and Calendar on the iPhone / iPod touch

Goodbye Mac.com, Hello Me.com

For all existing .Mac customers, you are probably aware that you received a free upgrade to MobileMe.  Not to worry, all of the dot mac features you have come to love are still there.  You have the choice of using your existing @mac.com email address, or switching to the newer @me.com.  So, what differences can you expect to find with MobileMe?  The foremost change that you will notice is the front-end of me.com.  I will go into more detail on this in the next section.

Me.com

With Me.com, you will find your Mail, Address Book, and Contacts arranged neatly in an intuitive, yet simple to use web interface that works much like that of their desktop counterparts.  Along with these new push services are your Photo Gallery, iDisk, and Account Settings.

Mail
MobileMe’s Mail application should be very familiar to users of Apple’s Mail.app.  It features a similar layout, and it includes much of the same functionality.  Some notable features include flagging important messages, drag and drop to folders, and quick reply.  With quick reply, you can send a quick response without the need of opening the original message.

Contacts
Contacts on MobileMe makes it easy to browse or search for contacts, and gives you access to much needed information while on the go.  Any images added for a particular contact on your Mac, PC, or iPhone are automatically added to their profile on Me.com.  Along with being able to edit contacts, you can also create and manage groups.

Calendar
Similar to iCal.app, MobileMe’s Calendar application allows you to view your calendar by day, week, or month.  You can create multiple calendars, and toggle them on and off according to what all you want to view.  Editing an event couldn’t be easier.  You simply click on the event to change the title, or drag and drop the event to change the time / date.

Remember, anything you do on Me.com is also reflected on your other devices.

A Rough Start

The transition to MobileMe wasn’t exactly a smooth experience.  Many users were left without email access, and the support forums were nothing short of a long list of problems.  Approximately 5 days after MobileMe’s planned release, Apple issued an official statement recognizing the issues, and has offered a 30 day extension to subscribers for their troubles.  On top of that, users are reporting that the “Push” functionality isn’t exactly working as advertised when updating from the the Mac.  Updates made on the Mac are currently being sent to the “cloud” every 15 minutes.

Pricing

MobileMe pricing is broken down into two possible packages, and includes the following features:

Single User: $99/year
-20GB of storage

Family Pack: $149/year
-Individual subscription (20GB of storage) plus 4 Family Member Accounts
-Each Family Member Account includes it’s own email address, and 5GB of storage

Subscribers can also add 20GB or 40GB of storage to their account for $49 or $99.

Final Words

MobileMe is full of promising new features, and a welcome improvement over .Mac.  Its web applications are unprecedented in quality and ease of use, but Apple still has some work ahead of them to get the push functionality working as advertised.  Regardless, I have no doubt that the progress made thus far is a step in the right direction.

So, is MobileMe worth the $99 pricetag to you?

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