.Mac Needs to Be Radically Retooled
When Steve Jobs announced Time Machine at the recent WWDC keynote one could sense that he was excited about something. After all, at first blush Time Machine is nothing but a back-up piece of software, much like the aptly named current Apple backup offering, Backup. The first thought that flashed through my mind was, “holy crap, Apple is finally going to get it. Steve and Co. will get that Gmail is giving 1gb away for free, Yahoo too, and, oh yeah, there is AOL’s recent 5GB for free annoucement. Apple is going to offer virtual backup space the same size as the hardrive you ordered.”
I was wrong. Time Machine lets you go back to files in your past. A very cool and sexy feature (and the interface don’t hurt either). Until you start thinking about disk space. If you start saving multiple versions of that photoshop file you could get in trouble. Quick. But this piece isn’t about the pitfalls of having access to previous versions. No, this is about the pitfalls of .Mac.
.Mac is a dinosaur of an offering that has been completely overshadowed by the web 2.0 offering both in terms of technology and features. Want to manage your family’s photos? I suggest Flickr, not .Mac. Creating album web pages is a pain with .Mac compared to Flickr. Want to allow your relatives to order photos in .Mac? Can’t. Want a way to quickly tag photos and make albums? Use Flickr. And, as far as I know it doesn’t limit how many photos you store.
Another .Mac offering is email. I think enough has been written about this, but suffice it to say Gmail’s free email offering smokes .Mac. So what does that leave? Not a hell of a lot.
Which is why I got so excited about Time Machine. When Steve showed that only 3% of people actively backup, I thought Apple is going to solve this! It hasn’t. So Apple you want to be bold, and make .Mac something worthwhile? Here is what you need to do.
First of all make .Mac free. Forever. No iTools switcharoo five years down the line, please.
Second, fill it with outrageously good features. When I buy a Mac I want a virtual disk housed by Apple that matches my hardrive size. Free. I want to be able to use that to backup my machine using Time Machine. Free. Now that would be a feature.
Third, port stuff to the web. If the whole web 2.0 thing teaches us anything it is that the web is the primary operating system of choice. People watch videos in YouTube, not Quicktime. We use Gmail for email, and manage our photos with Flickr. Create tools that integrate with the OS, yes, but whose primary interaction is the web. The homepage builder in .Mac is a good start, except that it has an old paradigm of building web pages. We don’t build web sites anymore, we build spaces online using wikis and blogs. iWeb is an excellent example of something that should have been web-based from the start.
.Mac as a distinct product should disappear, replaced by a suite of innovative web-based applications. Be bold with .Mac Apple. Stop thinking about how to milk users for every $99. .Mac membership when customers buy a Mac and yes, think different. Otherwise .Mac will soon be left in the dust by the Flickrs, Gmails, Pandos, and Youtubes of the world.