LifeClever: Dot Mac needs more than a paint job

LifeClever: Dot Mac needs more than a paint job: “

Apple finally revamps .Mac webmail, but does anyone care? » LifeClever

I have to admit, I’m solidly in LifeClever’s corner on this one. They write:

The hatred for .Mac is not new in the [sic] amongst the Mac community. For me, .Mac is slowly becoming less and less valuable — certainly less interesting — as free services from Google, Flickr, and Delicious duplicate or nullify many of .Mac’s offerings. Of course, some things to like include .Mac’s ability to sync certain system preferences between computers. Still, it doesn’t seem quite worth the hundred bucks a year.

A few years ago, things like WebDAV were a novelty that was awesome but hard to find and setup, even on most shared server accounts — I have four, and only one currently supports it out of the box — but it’s certainly not enough goods for the average user, even when you look at the other pieces of the .Mac offering. Not for that kind of dough.

I see the most value in .Mac: a) for people who are totally new to Our World, and who want idiot-proof integration between their Mac and the big bad world, and b) people who work on several Macs and can benefit from the hugely useful ability to sync files and settings on user accounts.

Part of the problem, in my opinion is that, in the absence of best-of-breed components, .Mac lacks any kind of meaningful focus. It screams ‘shovelware,’ with a ‘Meh+’ lineup of apps and functionality that any power user can find elsewhere in both cheaper and more powerful services (WordPress, rsync, Gmail, and Google Calendar all come to mind here). And really: how often are you sending out iCards and using the janky Backup? Yeah, me neither.

If it were my company, I’d give away a generic version of .Mac for free, and then make back some of the cash via additional disk and mail space. That’s it. It’s a customer retention and branding tool, and unless the pieces all were to receive substantial improvements (and constant incremental improvement, like their free competitors), it’s cynical to pretend that it’s worth $100/year to the garden-variety user.

But what if — with better integration and more competitive pricing — I could have .Mac running the day I turn on my new Mac, and then happily discover that I can seamlessly have my Documents and purchased iTunes Library backed up to a secure server every night? No, Apple doesn’t want to be in the internet hard drive business, but, obviously, via things like the iTunes Store, they have a strong interest in seeing you love the idea of interacting with them and their servers long after you’ve made the final payment on that shiny new Mac. Dot Mac is the perfect place to make that happen: be my hub, and do it better than your competitors.

Because I treasure the sync functionality and like iDisk well enough, I doubt I’d cancel anytime soon, but, frankly, I think I’m an edge case. As new Mac consumers mature and begin to explore the wonderful services out there that are improving every week, the .Mac offering starts to look pretty lame.

And it’ll take more than AJAX and pixie dust to change that.

Completely off-topic: What’s the deal with naming your products Google-unfriendly names like ‘Mail’ and ‘Backup’ and ‘.Mac’? I’ve never gotten that.

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LifeClever: Dot Mac needs more than a paint job