If the real estate mantra is “location, location, location” the tech mantra is surely “timing, timing, timing.”
For no company has timing been as bittersweet an issue as for Apple, which is so often early to the game.
Apple products like the initial, expensive, GUI desktops and the Newton handheld were simply so far before their time that the marketplace scratched its head in confusion while a few nerdy early adopters worked themselves into a froth.
And then, there’s .Mac (“DotMac”).
Launched just as the gel-colored iMacs were making Apple a true household name, .Mac internet services foreshadowed the Google/Yahoo suites of goodies we now find essential to our daily lives: Easy-to-use web-based email; easy-to-access online storage and backups, including simple file sharing; online photo albums; and web hosting of web page and photo album templates (and your own coded pages). In short, “your life, online.”
A .Mac subscription runs about $100 a year, which left Apple in a hard-to-defend position as soon as Google turned up with free gmail, Yahoo put real power behind its still-unsurpassed Yahoo Groups, and Flickr photo sharing appeared on the scene. None of these are as sleek and complete as .Mac, for sure, but they’re plenty powerful, dependable, easy to use — and cross-platform.
While Apple has continued to make enhancements to .Mac, most of them are closely tied to Mac OS X and iLife applications such as iPhoto and iWeb. Meanwhile, the rest of the online world has been getting deliciously loud and messy with wikis, MySpace, and blogging software, essentially offering people free online “performance space.” Amazon, Zazzle, and CafePress make possible the creation of “instant” online stores, complete with checkout systems.
Loud, messy, and commercial? That just isn’t the .Mac style.
Rumors have it that a major re-vamp of .Mac (including a new name) will be announced at WWDC Monday. I’m trying to imagine .Mac in the age of Twitter. Some are speculating that Apple will merely transfer the back end of the service to a company like Google. Others are hoping for a richer, trendier suite of services. Still others are recommending more competitive pricing, with a free year of .Mac service to be bundled with the purchase of a new Mac. The most tantalizing rumors have .Mac playing a big role for the next iPhones.
As a long-time .Mac user (and former .Mac employee), I’m ready for the new incarnation.