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.Mac webmail sneak peek Apple’s aging .Mac webmail client has been an embarassment for quite awhile now. So much so, that I’ve seriously considered dropping .Mac altogether. Now playing catchup to AJAX rich webmail clients like Gmail and Yahoo, Apple’s soon releasing a revamped webmail system.

The new webmail system will sport the look of Mac OS X’s Mail.app, and features fancy user interface enhancements such as drag-and-drop, smart refreshes, message previews, and keyboard shortcuts. It’s certainly a welcomed improvement and I will likely use it more. But is this too little, too late?

The hatred for .Mac is not new in 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.

Here are some areas Apple might look at to improve, perhaps innovate, .Mac’s services:

Social networking

Given the passion (obsession) of Mac users, it’s a mystery why Apple hasn’t entered the social networking space in an emotional, compelling way. Apple could infuse it’s suite of software and web services with social-networking features, connecting users in the dedicated Mac community to each other. Imagine being able to easily find other iChat AV users or the ability to share and trade Garage Band samples. It seems ripe for it.

Tiered membership

Apple’s current membership model for .Mac is a closed gated community. You pay for exclusivity and supposed premium services. With competition from explosion of free services, reasons for joining the .Mac country club will be fewer and fewer. Even AOL, perhaps the largest internet gated-community, are opening up their doors and offering free services.

To compete Apple might offer some .Mac services for free in addition to truly premium features that are worth paying for.

Apple + Google collaboration

A more open .Mac could happen with an Apple + Google collaboration. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt just joined Apple’s board of directors, so this seems almost too obvious. For example, a .Mac version of Google spreadsheets could have interoperability with Apple software, allowing users to collaborate and publish directly to Google spreadsheets from a robust version of iWork. The possibilities are very interesting indeed.

What do you think? How can Apple improve or overhaul .Mac? What alternatives do you use now?

8 Comments

  • Luke

    gravatarSep 28, 2006
    10:32 pm

    I still use .Mac but the sync and the fact everyone knows my email address there is what keeps me from leaving. It’s advantage over other free services is the integration — everything in one place, but I think Chanpory is right and Apple really need to up the anti and give people some damn good reasons to use .Mac — I mean, Photocasting??

  • abdullah

    gravatarSep 29, 2006
    5:29 am

    this website is a lousy rip-off of lifehacker.com !!!

  • Anthony Baker

    gravatarSep 29, 2006
    7:11 am

    Michael Arrington wrote a piece on TechCrunch about this today — he points out that, if it supports multiple mail accounts — the new .Mac mail app will be one of the only multi-account AJAX-based webmail clients out there. It’s frankly had me look at this in an altogether new light.

    http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/09/29/why-the-new-mac-webmail-is-important/#comments

    I’ve frankly shyed away from forking any cash over for .Mac (not enough benefit), but as a guy who now has to use Gmail for multi-platform purposes (work on a PC now, Mac otherwise), I’d love to be able to stick with Apple Mail and have a killer web-based GUI for it.

    Of course, I’d also like them to compete better with Google Calendar. My understanding is that you (can)’t sync multiple calendars with the web-based version of iCal? Can you even subscribe to other calendars as you can with the desktop client?

    Hell, if they brought the web-based versions of Mail and iCal up to snuff with the desktop versions, I’d pay money in a second. (Um, and if the servers respond well and the amount of hard disk space allowed for Mail was comparable).

    Then, $100 would be well worth my time and effort — and it would keep me in the Apple app/GUI realm, which I dig.

  • Anthony Baker

    gravatarSep 29, 2006
    7:13 am

    Apple, if you’re listening:

    I’m the customer you want. I’ll pay money. I’ll use your stuff over the competition that even Microsoft wants to kill.

    But you’ve gotta do a bit better. C’mon, folks — get with it.

  • Nabeel

    gravatarSep 29, 2006
    8:11 pm

    windows users don’t have access to this :( .. i wanted to see what .mac is all about ..

    Nabeel http://nabeelzeeshan.blogspot.com

  • Oliver Nielsen

    gravatarSep 30, 2006
    4:40 pm

    So many people use .Mac – and I’ve tried it out but really don’t care to renew it – it sucks in so many aspects.

    Please guys, you all moan about .Mac, but still you keep on using it – why not show Apple that they don’t get your money for that kind of premium-pay=crappy-product?

    Boycot the shit! It sucks. Apple is… ohh they piss me off now a days. They’ve had my Macbook for repair for more than a month now. Lousy service. Lousy environmental focus, lousy lousy production tolerances before a product leaves the factory, and they don’t care much to invent/release new technology, as long as they can milk the market with small-time updates. The branding takes care of the rest.

    Just see how they boast “The new Nano, totally remastered.” on Apple.com/iPod. Really, TOTALLY REMASTERED? Longer batterylife, a new shell, larger sizes, and the same now quite dated color choices, ripped from the iPod Mini? Wauw man, Steve Jobs are loosing your power? Your imagination? Your humanity?

    I’m getting to the point where I try to find stuff to buy that is non-apple.

  • Jonathan Lambert

    gravatarOct 8, 2006
    2:35 pm

    After careful consideration, I opted not to get .mac with my new 3000 dollar laptop. While a minor fee, the service is completely irrelevant. Why in the world would anyone purchase .mac? Unless you own multiple machines… in which case rsync works just as well.

    The cost of backup is absolutely stupid. It’s time for apple to open up these systems. I should be able to do 95% of the .mac features to my home linux box – that would make the .ac .mac again. ;-)

  • Chanpory

    gravatarOct 9, 2006
    10:30 am

    Jonathan, now that AOL’s launched a suite of free services including e-mail and 5gigs of free backup space via xDrive, the reasons for paying for .Mac is getting even fewer. I suspect Apple will eventually be forced to overhaul .Mac, because of user demand. Perhaps, we shall see this at Macworld in January…