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      14.06.2009 12:55
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      Great value with great services, but only for the minority

      I like Macs. In fact, I like most Apple products. I'm not seeking to re open that long running (and, to be honest, rather stale) Mac vs PC debate here. I'm just making the statement that I like Macs. I think Mac OSX is superbly designed, and I just genuinely enjoy using my MacBook Pro. In fact, I consider the purchase of my MacBook Pro back in June 2007 to probably be my best ever purchase of technology. The feeling, more than anything, is relief. Relief that I've finally found a product that suits me perfectly, and that I am entirely happy with. It is a good feeling, and one shared by many Mac users.

      There is, however, a downside. Apple products are expensive. I'm not talking about the Macbook Pro here. Yes, it was expensive, but I've already bought it. The problem is that now that I've fallen in love with my MacBook Pro, and I have been infected with this increasingly persuasive urge to buy every product and service that Apple bring out onto the market. And buying all of those is expensive.

      MobileMe is one such example of this. It is a subscription service that Apple provides which effectively combines a lot of different online services into one package. It would be difficult to sum these services up without saying 'it's like Microsoft Exchange, but on a Mac'. And that isn't going to help those of you who don't know what Microsoft Exchange is. So I think the easiest way to go about this is just to go through the different services:

      ONLINE STORAGE: MobileMe provides 20GB of online storage for you to use as you please. It is like having an extra hard drive, except this hard drive is entirely online and can be accessed from any computer in the world with an internet connection. It's very useful as it is entirely accessible providing you can get on the internet, and it is also entirely secure. Your computer could quite literally blow up and your MobileMe information would not be harmed in the slightest. You can also access your online storage directly through your Mac just like any other folder, meaning that it is integrated seamlessly into the OSX, which is incredibly convenient.

      MAIL: A MobileMe subscription automatically provides you with an e-mail address in the form of <your name>@me.com. In addition, MobileMe can send any messages you receive to an iPhone, iPod Touch, Apple Mail (which is the default mail programme on Mac OSX), Microsoft Outlook, or any combination of those. Which, depending on what combination of those you have, can mean that you can pick up e-mails virtually anywhere.

      ADDRESS BOOK AND CALENDER: In a similar way that it sends your e-mails to different places, MobileMe also keeps those sources updated with your address book contacts and calendar appointments. For example, if you put an appointment into your Calendar on your Mac, MobileMe will automatically update the calendar on your iPhone with the same appointment. Equally, if you add details for a new contact on your iPhone whilst on the move, it will automatically copy those details into your Address Book on your Mac. Very useful for keeping everything updated.

      GALLERY AND PUBLISHING: In addition to providing storage space, MobileMe can use the designated space online to host pictures direct from iPhoto (the Mac programme for organising your pictures). It then gives you internet addresses that anyone can put into their browser to view your pictures. However, these pictures cannot be found through Google and other search engines, so the only people who can view your pictures practically will be those that you give the address to. This makes it incredibly easy to share pictures with people, and is an alternative to hosting them on third party websites or sending them via e-mail. You can also publish websites using iWeb through your MobileMe account in the same way.

      Right, so that's a lot of information about the numerous features in MobileMe. The next question is does it actually work as it should? Initially there were numerous problems when MobileMe was launched back in July 2008, and the service was very unstable. Luckily these problems have now been rectified, and the short answer is yes, it does work. MobileMe is a service that essentially aims to make your everyday life more convenient as far as the above features are concerned, and certainly when you get used to these features it is very easy to take them for granted. Which is a good sign.

      So what does it cost? Well, the basic individual package is £59 a year, which includes everything above. You can also get a family package for £89 a year, which includes everything above plus four extra e-mail addresses, and four further 5GB storage spaces. The idea being that everyone in the family has their own e-mail address and storage space.

      The million dollar question, then, is whether or not this is worth it. And the answer depends on how much you're going to get out of it. There is no doubt that this service is very useful and a great feature to have following you around as you go through every day life. The problem is that if you don't have an iPhone, a lot of the function of this service simply disappears. Yes, you get the storage space and such, but you lose out on the on-the-go calibration with your address book and calendar, which dilutes the package somewhat.

      Personally I would recommend MobileMe to anyone who owns a Mac, an iPhone and actively uses those two things to hold contact details and calendar appointments. If you fit that description, MobileMe is an efficient and streamlined service that you will get real value for money from. Unfortunately if you don't fit into that category, and I suspect that even the majority of Apple fans do not, MobileMe just becomes too expensive to warrant a subscription. A better bet would simply be to invest in a decent external hard drive to back everything up on, and perhaps an extra pen drive to keep really vital documents on. It will cost more one off than MobileMe, but you won't be paying it every year, and will get exactly what you need out of it.

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    • Product Details

      You might have a Mac at home, a PC at work and an iPhone or iPod touch. How do you keep them all in sync? With MobileMe, your email, contacts and calendar stay the same wherever you check them, no matter what device you use.