MobileMe evolves into integral service

Apple’s MobileMe certainly had its growing pains when it launched last summer, but the online collection of syncing services has matured since then. MobileMe has definitely become an integral part of my computing experience.

I have been a steady user of Apple’s online services since January 13, 2000. That’s the day that Apple launched iTools, a collection of apps and services the company released to capitalize on the then-new fad of hosted services. With iCards, Web page hosting, e-mail and storage, iTools didn’t let you do a lot, but it was a window into where Apple would go in years to come.

Of course, iTools would morph into .Mac before becoming MobileMe with the release of the iPhone last July. Even .Mac gave us a glimpse into the future of what the service would become—iCal sharing, backup and IMAP e-mail for all users that paid the $99 a year fee.

You might remember that there was a huge uproar from iTools users at the time of that transition, because those services had been free while Apple started charging for .Mac. Even with the uproar, I paid up and have been a customer ever since.

As a matter of fact, I’m not the only one in my family that has a MobileMe account. My wife has an account (also brought over from .Mac) and our two kids have e-mail only accounts (used for e-mail and to buy a ton of music and videos). The interesting thing is that my wife and I use the service in completely different ways.

I use the syncing services a lot. I’ve set it to automatically sync all of my information from contacts and calendars to e-mail rules and keychains. And it gets used a good amount, too.

Setting up a new computer can be a real pain, but it doesn’t have to be. Typically, I plug it in, set up my MobileMe account info and sync. That brings down most of the information I need to actually get up and running with my computer. It doesn’t take that long either, since it’s just the essentials.

With the release of the iPhone, MobileMe and its syncing services have become even more important. I sync between multiple computers—including desktops and laptops—and my iPhone, constantly. Depending on what I have handy, I’ll make appointments, change contact info or upload files and know that by the time I pick up any of the other devices, the information will be there.

I know that MobileMe had some trouble at launch—I was as upset as everyone else when nothing would sync, but that appears to be a thing of the past. MobileMe starts syncing shortly after I enter an event in iCal—it gets put into my online calendar and then syncs with the iPhone. I actually sat and watched it all happen. (I do not lead an exciting life, I know.)

I also use Backup, Apple’s application to backup information to you MobileMe storage disk. Extra iDisk space is the one thing I did purchase more of in the last couple of years. With more media comes the need for more space.

I have some pictures on MobileMe, but not that many. For me, that’s not what the service is all about. My wife, however, is the exact opposite. She uploads and shares pictures constantly. From the kids and dog to our recent kitchen renovation, Monique has a visual story of everything that’s happened. She also set up a couple of Web pages, but with the new photo viewers in MobileMe, she just uses those now. I’ve tried to get her to sync her information once or twice, but she has little or no interest in doing that. I thought that was interesting—the same service fulfilling two completely different set of needs.

I had a chance to speak with Apple senior director for MobileMe product marketing Chris Saito, and he explained that e-mail is the service’s most popular feature, followed by sync and iDisk use.

The iPhone’s release has increased the demand for sync, but it also increased the use of the photo features too. More people are apparently uploading pictures directly to MobileMe from their iPhone. My general lack of interest in the photo-sharing features aside, I’ve done that myself.

For me, having push working is a huge thing that allows me to work anywhere, anytime and always have access to the most up-to-date information. The different ways my own family uses the service shows there is a little something in MobileMe for everyone.

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