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Why iCloud is making MobileMe users panic

When Apple introduced their iCloud service Steve Jobs started right away and said that MobileMe will be discontinued. He made a joke about how MobileMe was not their finest hour and the crowd agreed. After showing off some new apps and features the crowd seemed happy with iCloud. He didn’t once mention MobileMe or how their paid subscribers would be effected. Apple seemed to ignore the fact that people still have items on MobileMe. At this point silence was not the answer. Apple should have been clear to their subscribers, they didn’t have to do it publicly, but they could have sent us all an email explaining what to do and how to prepare for the switch.

But instead we got a vague message on their me.com page, this was later emailed to us with no additional info. It basically read that all subscriptions were extended 1 year and after that 1 year MobileMe will be shutdown in June of 2012. Apple tells us to stay tuned for more updates. They didn’t give us tips for downloading data, they didn’t say if iCloud would host files online, they didn’t say what we could do to transfer gallery pages, and they seemed to not even know what to tell us.  It seemed like a “move out and take your things with you” message posted on an apartment door. Now this was a service users paid for, I would expect a slightly better communication between the client and the company. This wasn’t a freebie operation that we knew would come to an end someday, this was a yearly subscription service for hosting data online. That’s what first got me upset. Apple didn’t’ seem to care to tell us what they planned to do, it was all very vague and unknown. Why not come out and confirm that everything will be deleted next year, don’t leave us guessing if iCloud will have a dedicated storage option in the future. Yes Apple is very secretive in nature, but this isn’t something they should have kept quiet about in my opinion. We’re just left to assume that come next year we better have everything saved offline. For years Apple has been pushing us to use MobileMe for iPhoto, iMovie and iWeb. Some features were originally only available to export to MobileMe, but later allowed alternative export options. Now Apple seems to be pushing us the other way.

Now I’ve been an iTools user since 2000 and a Dot Mac (.Mac) user since 2002 and I’m currently a MobileMe subscriber until Apple pulls the plug. So you can understand why I’m a bit upset and annoyed. I first stayed on since Apple owned my email address and I didn’t want to let it go, I should have just switched addresses then, but I didn’t. But when they gave us more web storage and iPhoto export options. I started hosting photos and creating my own sites. I started using almost all of the services I was paying for so I was getting the best bang from my buck. It was a nice service and had a few perks that at the time no other company was offering. I could sync bookmarks, keychains, calendars, address books, and tons of other information across my Apple laptop and desktop. Things worked pretty well for the most party and I started sharing photos, videos and sites online.

Over the years I have accumulated 7GB of online photo and video galleries alone, not counting any of the files or websites I have stored on my iDisk, I believe I have about half of my disk space used up. So that’s about 10-11GB of online data and 3GB of email storage – from my slightly over 20GB of space on the iDisk – I was credited a bit more space from Apple after one of their screw-ups in Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” where they deleted my whole iDisk via their buggy ‘Sync’ feature. But that’s another fun story for another time.

But back to the point, I have all this data that I’ve had access to edit, change and add-to whenever I wanted to. I could upload some more photos, send my family a link and have them take a look, etc. I could upload family home videos, send them a username / password and have them look at it knowing that nobody else will be able to see it.  It was useful and easy to do. iPhoto integrated well into it for photos and iMovie did as well for videos. Also there was an easy web interface I could use to edit or manage my galleries from anywhere – well except on the iPhone. What was nice as well was that Apple TV could log into my MobileMe account and let me see all of my photos and videos, straight from the internet. The storage-less Apple TV didn’t need me to leave a computer on all day just to view some photos once in a while. It was very nice and easy. Sure Apple TV never let you view hidden or passworded galleries, but it was good enough.

Yeah, MobileMe wasn’t perfect,  support and features seemed lacking at times, sometimes a lot. But it did do a good job when it tried, and it worked well most of the time. But now with the iCloud there’s no storage space or web hosting options available. No more iDisk, no more web sites, no more easy to manage web galleries. No migration plan, nothing. So a typical MobileMe user will have to figure out their own solution and download all of their personal data manually. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? Especially for something that was supposed to be easy to use and worry free.

Now you can maybe understand why I’m a bit upset and why a lot of MobileMe users are worried. Sure I can download everything (slowly) and buy a FlickrPro account for photos and videos. Sure I can start posting videos to YouTube, and sure I can use my own website hosting service for my files. But none of these options would be as simple or as easy to use with Mac OS X as MobileMe was. This just makes life more difficult when the whole reason I used the service was to make my digital life easier. I know iPhoto can ‘sync’ with MobileMe and download all of it’s content – but it’s not meant to export items easily, and so far when trying to download a 50 photo gallery it took ages to do so. And the iDisk when mounted in OS X normally will not give you access to the “_gallery” folder, this is where all of your Web Galleries are saved and where all their source files are. You have to fight with it just to get your data out of there! I’ll probably end up going to each photo gallery, setting it to public, clicking ‘Download All’ and hoping that the files it downloads are the original content and not just the compressed versions of the content that were posted as well.

I’m not upset that iCloud is kicking MobileMe to the curb, I’m happy to see some things that iCloud is offering. But I’m very upset and disappointed in the way Apple chose to handle the situation. Apple doesn’t seem to bother to tell their paying subscribers anything about the service they’re paying for and what will happen to it. They don’t even have the kindness to give us some information or tips about migrating our gigabytes of data off of MobileMe.

We have to fend for ourselves and figure it all out. Maybe when they finally fully launch their new service they may decide to throw us a bone and help us out. But as of now I’m not going to hold my breath. They have our data and there’s no clear exit plan to help us move it elsewhere. And that is why MobileMe users are panicking and worried, because Apple seems to just not care at all.

Tips on getting your data off MobileMe’s iDisk:

If you’re feeling lucky turn on iDisk Sync in Mac OS X. It’ll download mostly everything to your Mac from your iDisk. It will NOT however download your Gallery Photos & Videos. iPhoto can do some of this, but it’s export options for it aren’t the best, and it’s not clear if you’re getting the highest-quality files or just compressed versions made from your originally uploaded files.

For email you should be safe, Apple hasn’t said how much email space they’ll give you, but I have about 3GB currently, I’m not that worried about this one. If they want to compete with Google they won’t cap you on eMail storage.

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