More than a year after the announcement of iCloud, Apple is starting to shut down MobileMe-related servers. Reports have started to surface of Apple support personnel telling customers that accounts that have not been migrated will be deleted, possibly as soon as the end of business today. MacNN received conflicting information from Apple support representatives regarding the exact day of the shutdown, ranging from a confirmation of the end of day report, to "sometime later in the year." Regardless of support-provided information, the MobileMe service has been officially closed since June 30, and any data still on the service is at risk of loss, and should be retrieved immediately.
Apple has allowed MobileMe service users to retrieve data and download iDisk files even after the shutdown date, but this will not continue forever, as Apple continues migration to the iCloud initiative. The MobileMe servers are not the only servers getting axed by Apple -- the beta iWork servers are scheduled for shutdown at the end of the day. MacNN has been told that there will be no document downloads possible after the official server shutdown shutdown today.
Websites hosted on Apple's defunct MobileMe have been sporadically unavailable since June 30. While the primary tool for MobileMe publishing, iWeb, hasn't been updated since July 11, 2011, the application still functions under OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, and the WYSIWYG web tool is capable of exporting content to HTML for upload to a user-provided hosting service. Comment functionality is lost following export, but comment systems such as Disqus or Intense Debate can be manually embedded in HTML-exported pages.
Users who have converted to iCloud from MobileMe are able to continue using me.com and mac.com email addresses. Apple has not provided a substitute for iDisk file storage with the iCloud service, but free or cheap file lockers like SugarSync, Box.net, Microsoft's SkyDrive or Dropbox can fill the gap for file storage with limited amounts of free storage space and larger amounts available for a fee.
The shift of content storage to the cloud service and the resulting ability to synchronize multiple devices was credited by Apple CEO Tim Cook as the main factor in the service's "incredible" success of acquiring 85 million users in the first three months of availability. He said that iCloud, which is free of charge and available to both Mac and PC customers, "solved a lot of problems that people were having" with keeping content organized "and made their lives easier." While the installed base (now at over 130 million) is only half of the 260 million subscribers of Google's GMail, it also offers different services than the Google eco-system of web-based apps, and has been in existence for considerably less time.
The iCloud service offers advertising-free IMAP email; 5GB of storage space; automatic backup of all iTunes Store purchases (which doesn't count against the storage allotment); automatic "push" syncing of calendar, contacts, Safari bookmarks and selected other information; photo-synching and sharing service PhotoStream (which also doesn't count against users' storage limit); iOS device and friend locating services; iWork document sharing, and other features for free. The optional $25 per year iTunes Match add-on service provides cloud streaming of existing iTunes library content, including music not purchased on the iTunes store. Additional storage beyond 5GB can be purchased if desired.