Apple announced last year that it would discontinue its website publishing tool iWeb and hosting service MobileMe with the launch of iCloud this fall. MobileMe will be terminated in June 2012, although Apple has yet to release an exact date.
It is estimated that there are still 250,000 sites hosted with MobileMe, an opportunity that MacAce CEO Gary Hall says was big enough to justify investing in a new offering tailored to these users.
“I think (it’s a big market opportunity) judging by the amount of interest we’ve had since July last year when Apple announced it. We’ve had thousands of inquiries for something to replace it,” Hall says in a phone call with the WHIR. “So we started work on something like it. It does represent a market opportunity and that’s why we’ve invested so much money in it really.”
Hall says MacAce launched MacMate in 2007, but the new product only shares the same name, and is a completely new service. MacMate comes with 10GB of cloud storage, three email accounts in the standard package, and packages can be upgraded to 100GB of cloud storage and unlimited email accounts.
“We retained the functionality that people want from MobileMe, but we put our own stamp on it so it gives people interested in the iDisk space and the email that MobileMe offered,” Hall says. “There are some things that it doesn’t do, which we purposely have not tried to get into because Apple is doing it with iCloud so we don’t feel like going up against Apple. We’re trying to do our own thing and fill the market for the people that are left behind and want to continue using something like MobileMe.”
Hall thinks that Apple customers will want to use iCloud and MacMate in tandem because “for all the things iCloud doesn’t do, MacMate will be there to do.”
iCloud allows users to sync and back up movies, music, and bookmarks in the cloud across devices, while MacMate does more of what MobileMe used to do.
“What MobileMe used to do, the precursor to iCloud, was hosting an iDisk that you could back up your files to, those are the main things that we are actually targeting this first release of MacMate towards, primarily the hosting. There are at least 250,000 websites out there that need a new home,” he says.
Former MobileMe customers will be looking for something simple, and “Apple-esque”, Hall says, and MacMate will make provising websites as easy as one-click.
MacMate allows one-click publishing from iWeb, and the MacMate disk sits on a users desktop to allow drag-and-drop of files. Users can also access and share files on the disk via the online control interface.
Hall says that although the market opportunity is signficiant, there are other web hosts going after the same customer base, and they’ve been ramping up their marketing efforts to MobileMe customers as they look for a replacement host.
“Over the last couple of months there’s been a huge amount of web hosts, especially in the US, sort of gearing their own hosting solution towards a MobileMe, but they haven’t done anything special,” Hall says. “They haven’t actually addressed what customers want, and that’s what we’ve done, we’ve built a product that addresses exactly what they want.”
While MacMate is in public beta, Hall says the first version will launch in July. The beta is fully-functional though, so MobileMe customers can migrate before the June deadline.
MacMate is available for $89 per year, with three months free.
Talk back: How do you think web hosts can win MobileMe customers? Do you think this is an opportunity that your hosting company will go after? Let us know your thoughts in a comment.