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 valuableÃ¢â‚¬–certainly less interestingÃ¢â‚¬–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:
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.
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?