If you don’t have .Mac you don’t have a Mac (opinion)

With all of the recent hand wringing about the conversion of iTools from a free service to a paid service as .Mac, and a spate of recent stories insinuating that .Mac is somehow a failure for “only” netting 100,000 subscribers to date, I can’t remain on the sidelines any longer.

First of all, none of these articles out there on the “Mac Web” that seem so gleeful that 2.5 million iTools users have been whitled down to 100,000 .Mac users seem to mention these pertinent facts:

(1) iTools was available for over 2.5 years (announced January 5, 2000).
(2) .Mac has been available for only 2 months.
(3) The deadline (September 30, 2002) for converting to .Mac hasn’t even been reached, yet.

On October 1st, when those 2.4 million iTools users wake up and try to mount their iDisks and nothing happens, or try to get their iTools (.mac) email, what exactly do you think is going to happen? Take a wild guess. Or wait to read the next Apple press release about the huge jump in .Mac subscriptions.

A conversion from free to paid services always is based upon a certain percentage of subscribers for the conversion to be considered a success. Nobody expects all of the iTools members to instantly convert. My guess is that Apple are well ahead of schedule in this respect and are very happy with the number so far.

But, the most important thing about .Mac is that .Mac right now is nothing compared to what it will soon become. Apple is going to build any number of useful and innovative .Mac web services, to the point that owning a Mac without .Mac will be unthinkable. Or owning a phone without subscribing to .Mac would be ridiculous. Yes, Virgina, you’re simply going to have to buy .Mac. It will become an integral part of the cost of the Mac, just like new OS versions. Even now in .Mac’s nascent stage, after this September 30th if you’re not a .Mac subscriber, your Go menu will not be as functional as a .Mac subscriber’s Mac. Your iDisk will be greyed-out. Unusable. And this is just the beginning. How many greyed-out portions of your Mac experience are you willing to put up with to save $8 a month?

As .Mac adds more functionality and the OS becomes dependent upon .Mac for things like iCal publishing and sharing, iPhoto-generated homepages, and new functions such as the rumored iChat messenging to cell phones, and ideas not yet imagined, it will become unthinkable to buy a Mac and not subscribe to .Mac.

Can you imagine Apple bundling the first year of .Mac into the initial purchase price of a new iMac or iBook? I can. It’s time to face facts, these things cost money, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and web services / integration with devices are the future. I want my web services to work seemlessly with my computer’s OS, my cell phone, my iPod, my PDA, etc. Do you think Microsoft is going to achieve this? They can’t even do plug and play correctly because there are way too many cooks in the kitchen; they don’t “control the whole widget” as Steve is fond of saying. I’d rather buy it from Apple.

Listen, I know it’s slightly painful to realize it at first, but you .Mac complainers, petition-signers, and whiners, are going to have to pony up. This is exactly like the transition from free, “over-the-air with rabbit-ears and tinfoil” TV to pay cable TV. “Pay for TV,” they once shouted, “are you crazy, it’s always been free?!” Once they saw the benefits, they changed their iTunes. Today, the only petitions out there are for bringing cable service to outlying areas that don’t have it, they’re begging to pay. Imagine buying a state-of-the-art television today and not subscribing to cable or satellite service because it costs $30, $40, $50 or more a month. Imagine actually using those cheap rabbit ears they still include in the box?

Once everyone realizes what .Mac’s benefits are, and what a Mac will be like without .Mac, they’ll crack open the wallets, too. Nobody will want a Mac without .Mac.

Let me know what you think. Emails from .Mac accounts will be given top priority. wink

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular
contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

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