Apple [AAPL] is writing to former MobileMe subscribers to explain their free 20GB iCloud plan will expire on September 30, forcing many to either downgrade their iCloud use or spend cash to maintain their existing use.
A new Apple tax
As of April 2013 there are over 300 million iCloud users worldwide, according to the company: "Since launching iCloud just 18 months ago, we now have 300 million people using it every day. We will continue to invest in the ecosystem and have some great new features and capabilities in the pipeline," CFO Peter Oppenheimer then explained.
Apple offered MobileMe subscribers free use of the 20GB plan when it launched iCloud in 2011. The free offer was set to last for one year, but this was later extended to two. Now the company is putting an end to this iteration of the free cloud ride.
It's not a complete disaster, all users will be migrated to Apple's free 5GB plan — but that's not a lot of data when you consider iCloud is used as a repository for Mail, Contacts and Calendars and a host of other Apple services. OS X users will know that the default file saving location is iCloud, and theintroduction of iWork for iCloud is also likely to increase use of the service. iPhone and iPad data backups can also be saved to iCloud.
It remains challenging for users wishing to micro-manage the contents of their iCloud database(s). The iCloud control panel offers limited functionality, your Mail database needs to be worked through manually and many settings are accessed via individual applications. This means that many iCloud users may find they are already using in excess of 5GB of data within their existing account. If they can't afford to pay Apple its iCloud tax, they may well stop using the service.
Is it safe?
Apple has the right to charge fees for what it offers, but the side-effect of the MobileMe free ride has been to encourage users of iCloud to exploit the service without thinking through the consequences of that use.
The free storage offer wasn't made available to every iCloud member, but exclusively to former MobileMe subscribers. This still means thousands of Apple's most loyal users — you had to be pretty loyal to stick with MobileMe — are suddenly faced with the decision to pay more money to Cupertino, or simply to stop using iCloud.
A decision to stop using iCloud seems a sour option when you stop to consider the importance of cloud services within Apple's future plans. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has previously said:
"I would view iCloud not as something with a year or two product life; it's a strategy for the next decade or more. I think it's truly profound."
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