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MobileMe-to-iCloud Transition Messaging Provokes Confusion

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Plans for MobileMe never seem to go right. Its launch in mid-2008, as a transition from the previous .Mac service, was riddled with failures, data loss, and confusion (see “MobileMe Fails to Launch Well, But Finally Launches,” 12 July 2008). Steve Jobs, according to a recent Fortune report, berated the MobileMe team and then replaced the group’s head during a meeting at that time.

And now we’re partying like it’s 2008 once again. Immediately on the heels of the Worldwide Developer Conference announcement of iCloud, iOS 5, and the ship date for Lion, Apple sent email to MobileMe subscribers, theoretically explaining the situation. (For our initial coverage, see “What Happens to MobileMe” in “iCloud Rolls In, Extended Forecast Calls for Disruption,” 6 June 2011.)

In short, Apple extended all current subscriptions through 30 June 2012 for free, and suspended signups for new customers. In a support article, Apple said more details would be available when iCloud becomes available “this fall” (the third quarter of 2011), but that leaves months of confusion. Why not answer questions more clearly now and avoid customer frustration and confusion? It’s the Apple way, sometimes. Unfortunately, so much secrecy begets a culture in which clarity is the enemy of strategy.

The confusion was intensified by a report in This Is My Next, the Engadget team’s post-AOL project, in which Joshua Topolsky writes,

Let’s be clear about what happens when iCloud goes live — according to what was described on stage at the event, and what I’ve confirmed with Apple PR — the service will effectively replace the current web offerings of MobileMe. That means that when the cutoff date of June 30, 2012 comes around for users, the web-based email client, calendar, contacts app, and other components of the web suite will cease to exist. You will no longer be able to log in and check your mail through a browser, change calendar events, or edit contacts.

We have a query into Apple PR ourselves to find out whether Topolsky is characterizing that correctly. If so, this will be a big loss. If you lack access to a Mac or iOS device with which you sync mail, calendar events, and contacts, you’ll be cut off from your data.

Topolsky’s claims seem to be contradicted by other reports, such as one about Apple testing freshly written iCloud-based Web apps on its intranet. MacRumors just posted a screen capture of an iCloud invitation to a calendar that one of its readers appears to have generated using an iOS 5 beta.

Regardless of the future status of Web apps, a number of questions surround other current MobileMe-related services:

  • New iOS Buyers: If I buy an iPhone today and want over-the-air sync, can I purchase a MobileMe subscription? I don’t know what people are being told in AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Apple stores. It would seem peculiar that the service you need for sync among computers and multiple iOS devices is simply unavailable for new customers for a period of months. Perhaps it is being given away quietly?

  • Storage Amounts: iCloud will include 5 GB of free storage across all media (excluding purchased iTunes Store items, which don’t count) with the apparent option (shown in iOS 5 betas) of upgrading to more storage. MobileMe included 20 GB of storage in the $100-per-year subscription. We don’t know what final pricing will be nor how much storage you can purchase.

  • iDisk: Where will our iDisk files go? Will public files still be reachable? Will we have to archive everything or will it be moved automagically into the new system? And what if we have more than 5 GB of data and haven’t paid for upgraded storage? On 30 June 2012, does it all disappear? (Dropbox, SugarSync, and similar services can pick up the slack, but it will still be a jarring change.)

  • Gallery: iCloud includes Photo Stream as a conduit for photos passing among iOS devices and computers. But what of all the stored albums in MobileMe Gallery and the integration with iPhoto? The iCloud service as described doesn’t mimic this feature, which is a popular method of sharing photos both with the world at large and with private groups.

  • iWeb Hosted Sites and Personal Domain: As with MobileMe Gallery, iCloud doesn’t seem to have an analog to MobileMe’s iWeb integration, nor the option to alias a domain name you own to match up with a MobileMe-hosted site. What will happen to existing Web sites hosted on MobileMe?

  • Back to My Mac: Back to My Mac relies on several pieces of MobileMe infrastructure unrelated to any of the public elements of the service — such as wide-area, dynamic DNS — to create secure tunnels among machines registered to the same MobileMe account. This could easily be migrated to iCloud, as Back to My Mac has no interface beyond a Start/Stop button in the MobileMe preference pane. But will Apple do it? The company is mum on whether the service migrates to iCloud.

  • Apple Communities: Dennis Swaney notes in the comments that years of using his Mac.com address in Apple’s discussion forums has given him credibility and authority. However, you cannot merge reputation data and your forum posts into a new Apple ID, he says. That may disrupt the forums and dispirit those who provide advice there unless Apple comes up with a solution to enable people to merge Apple IDs.

  • MobileMe Aliases: Some users rely on email aliases in MobileMe. Apple says new aliases may no longer be created, but what will happen to those already in the system?

  • Pre-Lion Mac OS X Users: While iCloud may be the ticket for Lion, what happens to users of Leopard and Snow Leopard, if not earlier, for whom MobileMe worked just fine? Will they need to turn to Web apps, assuming they exist, and lose all synchronization options? That seems the likely outcome at the end of the transition in 2012.

  • Original iPhone and iPhone 3G Users: With the original iPhone locked out of iOS 4, and the iPhone 3G limited to iOS 4.2, owners of both models have at least been able to stay synced up. Will the move to iCloud prevent their use of sync services after the 2012 transition ends?

  • Find My iPhone: As with Back to My Mac, the data used by Find My iPhone could easily be moved over to iCloud and associated with an Apple ID rather than a MobileMe login. Apple started supporting Apple ID-based accounts for Find My iPhone last year when it made the service free to all iOS 4 users for all their devices. If your Apple ID is different than your MobileMe account, will iCloud handle the transition cleanly?

This is the list we’ve come up with so far. What other questions do you have about using MobileMe before the release of iCloud? And what other concerns do you have for those MobileMe-hosted data and services that Apple hasn’t yet discussed?

Check out the Take Control ebooks that expand on the topic in this article:

In this unique book, Joe Kissell helps you get set up and start syncing data with MobileMe, and then he explains how to best use MobileMe's Mail, Contacts, Calendar, iDisk, and Find My iPhone features. He also covers working with an iOS device, publishing iLife content via MobileMe, and the basics of Back to My Mac.

 

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Comments about MobileMe-to-iCloud Transition Messaging Provokes Confusion
(Comments are closed.)

Dennis B. Swaney  2011-06-13 16:47
My MobileMe @mac.com address IS my Apple ID for Apple Support Communities (formerly known as "Apple Discussions"), and has been for over 4 years. If it disappears, all the points and levels I've earned and attain will be lost because Apple will not let you transfer them to a new account which is also your Apple ID.

Also, I'm among those who can't go past Mac OS 10.5.8. But I have an iPad & iPhone 3GS so I can get iOS 5. If I can transfer to iCloud (iC) based on iOS 5, will I still be able to use it with Mac OS 10.5.8 even though Mac OS 10.7 is the minimum required on a desktop Mac to create an iC account?
Steve Saeedi  2011-06-13 17:07
I have one email-only account added to my me.com account. Will the email-only holders be migrated off the primary account holder and have their own 5GB storage as well?
John Baxter  An apple icon for a Friend of TidBITS 2011-06-13 17:23
Oddly, Microsoft is doing much the same thing. There's a feeding frenzy among developers, who have elected to hear the Windows 8 partial reveal--which said that new applications will be done in HTML5 and JavaScript--as saying that they will ONLY be done that way. (That is: what you have spent 20 years learning is obsolete.)

Neither company is doing this June's reveals well at all. It is as if they've been infected by a Google illness that causes non-communication.
Three big questions:

1. Will there be any webmail for email after mobile me goes offline?
2. What happens to idisk's share function? I send large files by download link all the time.
3. Can I buy more than 5 gigs? Seriously, 5gigs is nothing.
Shawn R  2011-06-13 18:49
My wife and I both have iPhones. I have a MobileMe account which I use to sync with my Mac for calendar and contacts. My wife set up her phone with my MobileMe account to share calendars and contacts, so we both have the same info.

If iCloud requires Apple ID's for sign-on, will we each have to use our own ID's on our own phones? Apple states calendars can be shared (so it won't matter), but no mention of contacts.
Richard Lennox   2011-06-14 06:24
Yeah, "the lord giveth and taketh away" ... And we are left to "deal" with it... Or arrange for a replacement (s). I imagine it will be fine in the future icloud, but I do resent being hung out to dry while the details are determined how they will be delivered or revoked. Just tell me what won't be packaged and let me use Dropbox & WordPress to reconstruct what I paid MobileMe for ( for the last decade)
Steve M  2011-06-13 21:57
What happens to non-iOS 5 users such as those with a still perfectly serviceable iPhone 3G?
I have a PPC Tower, a new macBook Pro, a 3G iPhone and my wife has a 3GS iPhone. Address Book & Calendar sync between all 4 using mobileMe. Looks like we will be left out in the cold for 3 out of 4.
Looks like iCloud is more the successor to iSync than MobileMe. In fact, it looks like there is nothing "cloud" about it, as they haven't shown a way to access any information other than through native apps on your Lion Mac or iOS 5 device. A true "cloud" service would allow you to access your stuff from any computer with any reasonably modern web browser, not just your own Mac.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-14 07:16
Cloud just refers to the abstraction of a computational resource where services are virtualized and you don't have to track and manage where stuff lives or runs. The difference between syncing and streaming and so forth is a different distinction.

I agree with the sentiment, however. Clouds aren't good for restricting access, because we know that we could get the data anywhere.
Stephen DeNagy  2011-06-15 12:44
Agreed! The advantage of any such "cloud" is the ability to get data anywhere. What if I am traveling, my MacBook goes south, and I need to get my contacts from a generic PC? Could happen...HAS happened! I also sometimes email myself data to grab it on a PCI have to use at work. Big mistake to disable Web Access aside from Lion users. Will alienate many and diminish their reputation.
Frank LoCicero  2011-06-20 20:49
"A true 'cloud' service would allow you to access your stuff from any computer with any reasonably modern web browser, not just your own Mac."

You are completely correct.

So many have excellent questions from different points of view.

Those of us using older Macs out of necessity due to plain old family budgetary constraints and / or the lousy economy, we do not want nor do we need a Lion only service at all!

Right now this does not appear to be a service for _us_; it is no iCloud.
dave nuss  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2011-06-14 09:02
Thanks for tracking this, Glenn!

Two concerns initially:
1) Privacy & Security-is everything encrypted with iCloud? also, does Apple take rights to photos in my Photo Stream? sell data about my music collection to labels? what do the take from the consumer to make this service "free"?

2) Int'l availability? I travel and so does my family, and I'm in charge of the IT. will iCloud users have access to the service anywhere in the world via wifi or is it US only?

thanks!
Christi Milligan  2011-06-14 12:14
I hope Apple ends up giving 5GB of iCloud storage for every Apple hardware product you own. So if you own a MBA, iPhone and iPad, you'd get 15GB to share. Buy an iMac the next year and get another 5GB added to your account. That would be a much sweeter deal!
Jon. Hersh  2011-06-14 13:05
I use my .Mac email address as my primary address. Will Apple continue to maintain those addresses?
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-14 13:12
That, there's an answer for. Apple says in the support document that mac.com and me.com addresses will move over to iCloud. How? By force? No idea!
Tom Hughes  2011-06-15 00:44
What happens to the MobileMe email aliases many of us now use ?
Tommy Weir  2011-06-15 05:41
I have a general question relating to families and iCloud. We all share my iTunes account for apps and media purchases.

What happens with sharing after iCloud?
- Currently our MobileMe account is mine and my wife shares my calendar and contacts.
- We all use the Find my iPhone feature for the five devices we own, that's enabled in the iPhones settings.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-20 09:50
That shouldn't be a problem, based on my understanding. For this scenario, iCloud simply replaces MobileMe, and you can continue to carry out the same behavior.
Tommy Weir  2011-06-15 06:06
And another issue would be the apps? There are five of us each using the same account for apps.
alex cumbers  2011-06-19 07:07
Apple will define a clear transition / migration path when the time is right, why don't people have some faith! That process is a year away, and iCloud has not officially launched yet!
It's the same with Lion, people moaning about no DVD etc, workarounds or an Apple solution will be forthcoming.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-19 09:36
That's extremely optimistic, and much of the article and comments have to do with what will be turned off when. A lack of clarity is unsettling for people who rely on a service.
Mark Gibson  2011-06-20 15:36
Well I posted this elsewhere so forgive the cross post.

However my concern is that currently iDisk is just a volume and I can put anything on it via the Finder or uploaded via a browser.

The Documents part of iCloud (at least as demonstrated during the WWDC keynote video) only allows the uploading of iWork files (so its a valid save to location within say Pages) but you can’t mount it as a volume in the Finder and dump whatever you want there.

I fear it will remain a closed repository only available to those applications that have integrated its API (and the Finder wasn’t shown as one of them).
Joyce hardin  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2011-06-20 16:15
I am concerned about the continuity of my blog, hosted first on mac.com and now on me.com. I take this medium very seriously and feel Apple has made a promise to its subscribers.
Glenn Fleishman  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-06-20 16:17
Of what nature is that promise? I have long had concerns about hosting myself on anyone's domain but my own because I worried that a change in management or service would cause me untold problems in migrating.
jimsanders1  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2011-06-20 16:32
I guess I know a bit too much about performance problems in an 'elastic cloud'. With all the 'services' implied in iCloud, the most worrisome - based on our common experience with iDisk - is "Has Apple really learned enough from the Mobile Me fiascos to provide the truly robust and responsive services that we all expect from them?" How many limitations will they need to lay on us to make it behave as a coherent set of services? I am eager to remain among the happy Apple customers, but nervous about the lack of facts.
My concern, beyond what was already mentioned in the article, is whether Keychain syncing between computers will continue to be supported. I am hopefully confident that this and many of the other services will be migrated to iCloud and will remain functional until they do.

But I guess we won't get iCards back...
Robert Tynes  2011-06-21 09:43
There is, by the way, a site that has replaced the iCards feature, although not as elegant. It is 4icards.com and is still a free site at the moment.
julieg  2011-06-20 21:53
I have been a loyal Apple supporter since 1980 and the uncertainty of this transition and possible loss of features that I use quite often is beginning to leave a bad taste in my mouth.
I've had my .Mac account since it was eWorld, and I've shelled out -- well, far too much money for the convenience of not having to change my E-mail address, and, later, of synching my data relatively easily.

However, I've known for years that Apple gives not a sh*t about those of us who have supported the company all these years, and this latest fiasco simply confirms it.

I have a feeling that this will be the thing that finally pushes me over the edge and onto my own domain using some service provider that charges far, far, far less for more. I should have done it years ago, but better late than never.
Robert Tynes  2011-06-21 09:34
It is simply unconscionable that Apple cannot answer these basic questions in a timely manner for its most loyal paid subscribes, especially after claiming they have been working on this for years!
guess I missed the boat to activate my dotMac ID as an email acct.
Darn the Luck!!!
Now as I transistion from one ISP to another, dotMac would be very useful. Feh
Tunes & iTunes Match: What will happen to elements such as lyrics and comments? I haven't purchased many songs from the iTunes store, but the few I have purchased did not include lyrics. I am currently on a personal project to acquire lyrics for all my songs (99% done!) and I'd hate to have a situation where I purchase a song on my computer, research and add the lyrics to it, then when the song is pushed to my iPhone have it arrive without lyrics. The same could be said for many of the other data fields that iTunes has for each song (Comments, BPM, Composer, etc.) but aren't normally populated by the iTunes Music Store. Also, I find I usually have to over-write the ITMS values for album, tracks, and years because ITMS usually has compilation albums for their 1960s music (Yeah, I'm an aging hippie) and I prefer to put it the first album the song appeared on.

My guess? The pushed songs will be the standard, plain-vanilla ITMS content. However, when (if?) you sync with your computer then the updated song and its data get added to the device. This would not require any re-coding of iTunes, as this is how it works right now. All songs that I have on my computer are also on my iPhone. When I update the lyrics or other data, the changes download to my iPhone when I sync. I see this as the easiest way for Apple to handle the optional data fields. However, this still puts the computer as the master device and the iOS devices as subordinates, which is not the ideal that Steve pitched when he laid out his vision of all devices being equals. You can't edit song data on an iOS device; at least not through an Apple-supplied interface. Maybe this opens a new field of iOS apps for music editing? Or maybe they exist and I have just never noticed because I've never had a need to edit on my iOS device.

To make all devices equals, Apple would need to: 1) enable music data editing on all devices, and 2) automatically sync your changes to all your devices. Maybe in iCloud v2?