Apple has warned some long-time users of its iCloud online storage and syncing service that the free 20GB of storage given them two years ago will disappear at the end of September.
The warnings were sent only to customers who had earlier subscribed to iCloud's predecessor, the problem-plagued MobileMe.
During the switch from MobileMe to iCloud — a process that started in October 2011 and ended in June 2012 — Apple offered an additional 20GB of storage to MobileMe subscribers, who had paid $99 annually for that amount of space. The 20GB was atop the standard 5GB all iCloud users received, giving former MobileMe customers a total of 25GB.
Last year, Apple pegged Sept. 30, 2012, as the end of the free ride, an extension from an earlier June 30 deadline. Before the cut-off date, however, Apple extended the 20GB deal another 12 months to Sept. 30, 2013.
To keep the 25GB, customers must soon fork over $40 a year.
"When it expires, your iCloud storage will be automatically adjusted to the free 5GB plan," Apple said in its email to customers. "If you exceed your storage plan on September 30, 2013, iCloud Backup, Documents in the Cloud, and iCloud Mail will temporarily stop working. To continue using these iCloud features without interruption, reduce the amount of iCloud storage you are using or purchase a storage plan by September 30, 2013."
Apple also offers 10GB of additional space for $20 annually, and 50GB for $100 per year, for totals of 15GB and 55GB, respectively.
iCloud's prices are much higher than rival storage services. Microsoft, for example, sells an additional 20GB — atop the 7GB it gives free to every user — in its SkyDrive service for just $10 annually, or a fourth Apple's price for the same amount. Google provides customers of its Google Drive 15GB free of charge. And DropBox, which offers only 2GB free, charges $99 for 100GB, the same price as Apple levies for half as much space.
Of the major players — Apple, Google and Microsoft — the latter's SkyDrive is the least expensive across the board. (But Microsoft has its own problems with SkyDrive; it must rename the service after reaching a settlement with the U.K.-based British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) Group in the wake of a trademark lawsuit loss.)
Apple has been aggressively pushing iCloud, not only to customers but also to developers, as part of an overall strategy to maximize service revenue. For instance, developers of OS X applications that rely on iCloud for file storage must sell their software in Apple's Mac App Store, where Apple is entitled to its 30% cut of all revenue.
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