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High on iCloud, Apple slates MobileMe's demise

Angry fans of oft-mocked service say they've been cheated, abandoned as Apple names June 2012 shutoff

Apple on Monday made it official, saying it will pull the plug on its MobileMe sync and storage service in 2012.

Apple emailed MobileMe subscribers with the news, telling them it would shutter the service in just over a year.

"Your MobileMe subscription will be automatically extended through June 30, 2012, at no additional charge," Apple's email read. "After that date, MobileMe will no longer be available."

The new iCloud service, which CEO Steve Jobs unveiled earlier Monday, will effectively replace MobileMe this fall when Apple will also launch iOS 5, its next mobile operating system. iCloud will be free for all owners of Macs running Mac OS X 10.7, aka Lion, or of devices powered by iOS 5.

Jobs didn't sound unhappy that MobileMe was disappearing. "It wasn't our finest hour, just let me say that," Jobs said of MobileMe as he introduced iCloud.

MobileMe, which cost $99 per year, or $149 for a five-user Family Pack, stumbled after its 2008 launch, dogged by problems ranging from slow synchronization to an 11-day email outage .

Nor was the news unexpected. In February Apple pulled MobileMe from its online store , prompting speculation that a replacement was in the works.

Current MobileMe subscribers will be allowed to keep their email address when they shift to iCloud, and can move their email, contacts, calendar and bookmarks to the new service, said Apple.

But Apple did not spell out a future for MobileMe's iDisk -- a 20GB online storage account. Apparently, that data apparently won't be transferable.

iCloud comes with just 5GB of storage space, and devotes that to email messages; documents produced by Apple's Pages, Numbers and Keynote applications; and back-ups of some data. According to what Apple's revealed about iCloud, it will have no online storage suitable for files such as Microsoft Office documents or Quicken backups, or any way to store and sync all kinds files, as services like Dropbox can.

MobileMe's demise, even though it's more than a year in the future, drove some Mac owners to vent on Apple's support forum.

On one thread, users who had just recently had their credit cards charged for a MobileMe renewal complained that they were paying for something that everyone -- including themselves -- would get for free when iCloud rolls out this fall.

"For anybody whose [renewal] date was in the last couple of months before June 6, we got swindled by Apple," argued someone identified as "ahaynes4" on Monday.

Others complained that they would have to buy a new Mac to use iCloud.

"I am still quite satisfied with my PowerPC machines, and I cannot afford to buy a new machine just because you are linking your new services to new technologies," said "bowlerboy" on a different thread. "You should not be pulling the plug on 'older' stuff that still does the job on older (but not obsolete!) Macs. It is rude and short-sighted."

As that user noted, some customers will be hit harder than others by the loss of MobileMe.

Users with Macs powered by PowerPC processors -- those used in Macs built before Apple switched to Intel's architecture in 2006 -- are out of luck, since like Snow Leopard, Lion requires an Intel-based system.

And even Intel-powered Macs running Mac OS X 10.5, or Leopard, may not have an easy upgrade path to Lion: Apple has not said whether it will repeat its 2009 move and sell a software bundle that lets customers skip an OS. Then, Apple offered users running Mac OS X 10.5, or Tiger, a $149 collection dubbed "Boxed Set" that included not only a Snow Leopard upgrade but also new versions of the iLife creativity suite.

Assuming those users' Macs meet the hardware requirements for Lion -- a dual- or quad-core Intel processor -- they could get iCloud by first upgrading to Snow Leopard for $29, then again to Lion for $29.99.

What's clear is that things are unclear, several users concluded. But many were optimistic that Apple would sort it all out.

"I'm really hoping that in addition to the bare bones free service announced today, there'll be optional add-ons available for a fee coming later," said Dave Clifford on the forum. "There must be thousands of people who use iWeb, iDisk, and Gallery and who wouldn't mind continuing to pay to keep them on."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected] .

Read more about cloud computing in Computerworld's Cloud Computing Topic Center.


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