MobileMe, a suite of internet-based services from Apple, has been been available for the last 10 years. But when Apple recently updated their online mail app to very little fanfare, it became clear that many people are missing out on the superb services available from MobileMe.
At $99/R850 for single users or $149/R1350 for a family pack (5-user) the service is not cheap, but it’s well worth the money for a world-class service that includes mail, address book, calendar, online storage and a web hosting service.
What is now known as MobileMe was launched in 2000 in the form of “iTools” as a free service with very basic functionality. Two years later, the service was relaunched as a paid cloud service under the banner “.Mac”, and it quickly started to gain momentum due to the great functionionality it offered and because (at the time) it came with an “@mac.com” email address.
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July of 2008 saw another relaunch, this time as MobileMe, with the incorporation of a full set of cloud-based services that placed it head and shoulders above anything else out there. It’s not just online storage, email, address book and a calendar, it’s a service that stores your information in the cloud and syncs it between various devices. Steve Jobs originally introduced the service as “Exchange for the rest of us”.
In a sense, MobileMe is the poor man’s exchange server, in that it offers exchange-like functionality for home users; but it’s so much more. Take a look to understand what you’ve been missing:
Mail is pushed to multiple devices while always staying in sync. It also includes push functionality for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. There is an online webmail-like interface that recently received a complete makeover, which now supports server-side rules while providing a dynamic desktop app feel.
Address book and calendar
The service maintains a synchronised address book and calendar feature using MobileMe push functionality. If you make a change in your address book or calendar on your iphone, it is automatically pushed to all other devices that use MobileMe. Supported devices include the iPhone, Address Book and iCal on Mac OS X, and even Microsoft Outlook 2003 and more recent versions.
Find My iPhone
A fairly recent addition to the MobileMe package, “Find My iPhone” has been warmly welcomed by the Apple fraternity. I especially like it because I’ve been able to LoJack my wife, so that when her phone goes unanswered, or gets lost, I can just login and locate it on Google Maps.
In a nutshell, users can track the location of their devices via the web portal at me.com or from an app downloaded to an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. Any user can track any device they have the login details for, and view its approximate location on a map.
You can also display a message and play a sound on the device, change the password or even remotely erase its contents. So if your device is lost or stolen, you could offer an on-screen reward, lock the device, or completely erase any confidential info on the device.
MobileMe comes in two different flavours: Single user, which provides 20GB of storage and 200GB of monthly bandwidth, or the five-user family pack (significantly better value for money) which includes a 20GB main account and four sub-accounts with 5GB storage each. Each account also gets all the MobileMe features, and members can buy more storage in 30GB or 50GB blocks. The great thing about all this storage space is that when you use the iDisk it’ll all sync up.
The iDisk is a truly great MobileMe feature. It’s a cloud storage repository which is accessible via a web browser at me.com, or by Finder on Mac OS X , various apps for IOS or as a remote disk in Microsoft Windows. iDisk allows you to share files by selecting a file and then clicking a Share button that will generate a unique link to this file — protected by password — that can then be shared by email. Another easy way to use iDisk to share files is by placing them in the iDisk Public Folder, which can also be password protected.
What is really great about the iDisk is that if, for example, you have a Macbook, an iMac at home and a laptop, you can change a document in one place and it will be uploaded to the cloud and be synced to all those devices.
This one might seem a little boring, but it’s quick and easy to use and is something that many people would normally pay a third party like Picasa Web Albums or Flickr for. MobileMe has a public photo gallery area that uses part of your allotted amount of storage space.
Photos and videos can be uploaded in the web browser at me.com, synced by iPhoto or Aperture on MacOS X or uploaded from the iPhone and iPod touch. MobileMe also gives you a unique e-mail address to use for uploading photos and videos to your specific account via email.
MobileMe users running on Mac can use the iLife application, iWeb, to publish websites hosted on their MobileMe account. You can also have full domain name control or just host it on the me.com domain. Windows users can publish without iWeb by transferring files to the Web/Sites folder in iDisk. One thing that has to be taken into account is that, if you aren’t using the special built-in iWeb features and are publishing from Windows, there is no support for server-side applications like php or ColdFusion.
MobileMe has made great use of Ajax and Dynamic HTML to simulate the look and feel of desktop applications within your browser. Applications on me.com include Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Gallery, Find My iPhone and iDisk access, plus an Account Section where users can configure features such as e-mail aliases and domain names for the iWeb feature.
iChat and AIM
MobileMe users can connect to the instant messaging service, AIM with their @mac.com or @me.com accounts. You can also access your MobileMe chat account on an iPhone or an iPod touch, using the free or paid-for versions of the AIM application or any other chat app that will allow connection to AIM.
Those who want to sync their MobileMe data with a PC just have to download and install the MobileMe Control Panel. Having done this, users can sign in to the app and configure their Windows options to sync contact, calendar and iDisk info. Doing this gives Windows users the full MobileMe experience and removes the previous “Mac barrier” that used to exist.
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