Several years ago Apple released its so called “.Mac Services.” At the time, .Mac was little more than a free email account @mac.com. When Apple deployed .mac, it was publicized with the slogan “free email for life.” That lasted about a year before Apple started adding features and decided to start charging for it.
When I first signed up for a .mac account, I did so knowing that I would always have access to the associated email address and that I would never be charged for it. When Apple changed its policy, many users were understandably outraged. Why should we be strong-armed into paying for a service we had been promised would be free? After using my .mac email address for well over a year, it was a major inconvenience to switch to a new address. At that point I made the decision to buy my own domain name and insure that this sort of thing would never happen to me again.
Since that day, I have had bad feelings in regards to Apple’s .mac service. But since that day, the service has gown. Against my better judgment, I finally paid for the service. I still have bad feelings about the entire experience but I needed a way to synchronize calendars with several business associates and Apple’s iCal does a great job of this… as long as you are a .mac subscriber. So, reluctantly, I bit the bullet and laid down my hard earned cash.
Since that time, I have found several uses for the service in addition to the calendar synchronization. I don’t have much use for most of what .mac offers since I am a web publisher and prefer not to work with iWeb, and I don’t publish my web content to my .mac account. But since I have several Mac’s that I use on a regular basis, the ability to synchronize my bookmarks and address book across them all seamlessly has almost taken the sting out of my .mac experience.
When it comes to the ability to sync my address book and calendars across multiple machines, I can’t praise the service enough. It really does work as advertised. And it really has made my life a lot easier. Combine that with the ability to sync my calendar and address book with my cell phone, and I have achieved a very comfortable mobile experience.
Last week, Microsoft released an update to Office 2004 for the Mac. The update finally provided a series of features that Microsoft had initially promised as part of Office 2004 when it initially shipped. Despite my irritation that it took them almost two years to finally add the features, I have to say that they do work as advertised.
With this the latest update, Microsoft Entourage has finally gained the ability to sync with Apple’s Address Book. Along with it, Entourage can now also synchronize with my .mac account. Not only can Entourage sync its address book, but it can also sync it notes, tasks, and calendar. And, just as you might expect, this makes it amazingly simply to keep multiple computers up to date with the same information.
The ability to sync my personal data between multiple machines is a powerful and practical tool. The ability to sync that same information with mobile devices like my cell phone makes my life so much simpler. And given the advanced features of the Mac OS, when I update information in one of my applications, the OS just seems to understand and send the change to .mac. No interaction is needed on my side. I don’t even need to tell the Mac to perform a sync with .mac!
Obviously I still have bad feelings toward Apple for the slide of hand it used when I was tricked into signing up for a free email account and then trying to dupe me into paying for it. I expect more from Apple. But given the synchronization services built into the current OS, I have to say that I am impressed. And as time goes on, I seem to be feeling less and less abused by the experience. While I wish the synchronization services were free to all Mac users, I am starting to believe that service alone is worth paying for.