The time to subscribe to Apple’s new .Mac subscription service is quickly drawing to a close. Users that don’t subscribe by the September 30 deadline will lose any files, pictures and any other information stored on their iDisk, but usernames will be available indefinitely.
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Apple confirmed for MacCentral that on October 1, any former iTools members that haven’t switched their free account to the new .Mac paid subscription service would lose any information they have stored for their account. If you sign-up after the deadline you can keep your username, but there will be no way to get your data back.
“As we stated in the initial communication and additional communications over the last 75 days, information that customers have on their .Mac account will be removed if they choose not to sign up for .Mac before the expiration deadline,” Joe Hayashi, Apple’s director of Product Marketing, Internet Services, told MacCentral. “Members who choose not to sign-up for .Mac should not expect to get their information after the deadline. In fact we are planning for the service to be offline starting at 12:30 am for about an hour on the morning of October 1 to complete the transition.”
While you will lose any files or information, you will not lose the ability to keep your username. Former iTools usernames will be kept for an indefinite period of time allowing users to sign-up for .Mac for the foreseeable future and keep their email address.
In fact, you can still use your .Mac username as your iChat login even if you haven’t paid for the service. You will not have access to email or other features of the service, but you can still monitor and change your iChat password using the .Mac Web site.
“Usernames will be available for reactivation indefinitely,” said Hayashi. “After the deadline a customer may choose to sign-up for .Mac and reactivate their .Mac user name if they have their password, but they should not expect to get their data. Usernames will also continue to work for iChat even if a customer decides not to sign up for .Mac. Customers can manage their password for iChat through the .Mac web site.”
Apple recently released numbers showing 100,000 people have signed up for the .Mac service. While that number is a small percentage of the estimated 2 million plus iTools users the company had, Hayashi said Apple is happy with adoption rate of .Mac.
“We are very pleased with the response that .Mac has received,” said Hayashi. “We are well ahead of our internal projections and we feel that this is one of the fastest ramps in a free to fee transition to date.”
The estimated number of iTools users that Apple had may be a bit deceiving itself. Many people had multiple accounts — some totaling five or six separate iTools usernames. Users in this situation that we spoke with chose to sign-up one of these accounts to a paid subscription, even forgoing the opportunity to sign-up the extra email-only accounts.
When you sign up for a .Mac subscription, Apple will allow you to add up to 10 email-only accounts to a paid subscription. The ten additional .Mac accounts, which cost US$10 each, get 5MB of storage space with no access to other .Mac services. The option to sign-up additional email addresses is one of the last steps when signing up for .Mac — you will need to have the username and password of any email address you wish to attach to a paid subscription.
Hayashi also confirmed that educational institutions would not receive a discounted rate for .Mac subscription services. Some teachers had entire classrooms sign-up for iTools accounts to store files and teach students about the Internet and multimedia projects.
If you like to know what is being charged to your credit card before it happens, you should check your .Mac account if you have already signed-up. By default, Apple checks the auto-renewal option in your account options, which will be $99 plus applicable taxes next year.
Industry analysts see Apple’s decision to closely tie the recently released Mac OS X 10.2 operating system to .Mac as a good move. While Apple is adding value to OS X with additional functionality with .Mac, the company is also adding an additional revenue stream.
“Anything they can do to make Mac OS X more appealing is a good business decision — it’s definitely a good strategy,” said Toni Duboise, senior analyst with ARS. “There comes a point in time when all PC manufacturers have to protect their bottom line.”