• MobileMe to iCloud Transition

    Back in the dim, dark and distant past of May last year, I started writing a series of articles around the theme of Your Life in Sync.

    At the time, I wrote mostly about how Iíve set up my email to work across all devices I use on a daily basis. In June, Apple hosted itís annual world-wide developer conference. This conference was the platform for announcing Lion, IOS5 and iCloud, the last of which was set to replace MobileMe. It became clear that there really wasnít all that much value in continuing to talk about MobileMe and how to use it when the operation of that service was under an iCloud (pun intended, feel free to groan at your leisure).

    Fast forward to now and weíve seen the release of IOS 5, a new iPhone and, importantly for this series, iCloud.

    With iCloud now readily available to everyone, itís likely that it will take on even more importance than MobileMe. The killer combination of free access to anyone who wants to sign up and itís strong integration into IOS5 means that the case for using iCloud is compelling.

    Winning and Losing

    By now, most people whoíre interested in this kind of thing will have seen Appleís comparison of services between MobileMe and iCloud. Much has been made of the loss of iWeb publishing, Gallery and iDisk.

    But thereís been some other casualties along the way.

    Syncing of Dashboard widgets, keychains, dock icons and System Preferences have also been dropped.

    Of particular interest to heavy users of email though is the loss of syncíd mail accounts, mail rules, signatures and smart mailboxes. How much this loss matters is going to depend on your own use. If youíre mostly using a single Mac and one or two IOS devices then it may not matter all that much to you. For me, using email heavily on two different Mac computers (and, less frequently, on a third Mac) Iím going to miss these features. Being able to add or edit a signature on one computer and automatically have it appear on all computers was great. Ditto with smart mailboxes and mail accounts.

    Just because these features arenít directly supported by iCloud doesnít mean a complete loss of benefit. Some lost features are a minor convenience that can easily be obtained through a different work-flow and in other cases, when I stop to consider whatís actually happening, I realise I wonít miss these capabilities at all.

    For example, while Iíve always had the ability to sync email signatures on all devices with MobileMe it only really mattered on my computers. I only use one signature on my IOS devices (no, itís not the default ďsent from my iPhoneĒ) so thereís no real loss here. Itís not like I change signatures all that frequently either - Iíve been using the same basic signatures (yes, thereís a few of them) for over a year now.

    So, what does iCloud bring to the party to make up for this?

    Content.

    iCloud can make any purchased iTunes store content (thatís music, TV shows, books, movies, apps, the whole lot) available on every device you use - be it a desktop, laptop or IOS device. With the right configurations and network connectivity, it can do this in the background no matter where your devices might be located.

    Thatís pretty compelling.

    A free iCloud account gets you 5GB of available storage space. While that may not seem like much in this content-rich age, when you consider that anything youíve purchased through iTunes doesnít count (I guess Apple is already storing all this stuff anyway so it makes sense to offer it ďfreeĒ) you realise that your 5GB is for email, documents and other application data and it can go a fair way, although Iím forced to admit that Iím using about 2GB for email alone right now.

    As an added bonus for MobileMe users, you get an extra 20GB for the first year - thatís A$42 of bonus storage for the first year.

    Split Personalities

    One of the big complaints for iCloud has been itís strong integration into IOS and Lion placing a far greater importance on your Apple ID than ever before. In the process, people have discovered theyíre using more than one Apple ID (including some theyíve completely forgotten about) and this is making it harder to work out how to integrate their use of Apple IDís into iCloud.

    I have half a dozen Apple IDís. One is my me.com account which Iíve only ever used for MobileMe services and synchronising stuff. Iíve never used it as an iTunes account. I also have an Apple ID associated with another email address (on my own domain) that Iíve used for iTunes/Mac App Store. Aside from this Iíve got a few other accounts that have been set up for conducting training, accessing GSX and so on. In general, these additional Apple IDís donít need to be associated with iCloud in any way.

    In working out how to handle multiple Apple IDís this is really the sticking point. If youíve ended up making iTunes purchases on more than one Apple ID then this is where the pain starts. Apple is reportedly working on a way to merge Apple IDís and one can only hope that this happens soon.

    In the mean time, Apple has published a support article on Apple IDís and iCloud that helps you work out how to best integrate your current Apple IDís into an iCloud world.

    Conclusion

    iCloud is a great leap forward.

    Like many such leaps, thereís some pain.

    If youíre new to IOS and OS X then iCloud is almost magical in itís ability to make your life easier.

    On the other hand, if youíre groaning under the weight of legacy and decisions (poor or otherwise) in your past then trying to integrate iCloud into your daily Apple use is currently less magical to varying degrees depending on how much baggage youíre dealing with.

    Thereís clear indications that Apple knows and understands whatís going on with this pain and is working on a solution.

    In the meantime, think of iCloud as what it is, a version 1.0 release. In other words, a relatively feature-complete starting point that will be used as the base from which much goodness can flow in the future.

    David Freeman is an Apple Certified Macintosh Technician and the proprietor of Outback Queensland Internet (aka Leading Edge Computers Longreach). He has worked as a technician since 1995 and been involved in computers and the Internet since 1988 when he purchased his first computer (an Amiga 1000).
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