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 US$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 30 September 2012, as the end of the free ride, an extension from an earlier 30 June deadline. Before the cut-off date, however, Apple extended the 20GB deal another 12 months to 30 September 2013.
To keep the 25GB, customers must soon fork up US$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 30 September 2013.”
Apple also offers 10GB of additional space for US$20 annually, and 50GB for US$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 US$10 annually, or a quarter of 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 US$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 UK-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 maximise 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 percent cut of all revenue.
The Cupertino, California company has been touting the revenue from its services and app and music stores lately. In the quarter that ended on 30 June, that division reported revenue of US$4 billion, or about 11 percent of the total.
Apple has also placed restrictions on rivals. In 2012, Apple rejected several iOS apps because they relied on DropBox for storing data and files. To solve the problem, DropBox modified its SDK, or software development kit, so that third-party developers could not steer customers toward a website where they could sign up for the file-sharing service and purchase additional storage.
iCloud is used for storing photographs, email messages, iOS device backups, iWork documents and files generated by a wide range of third-party desktop and mobile apps. The service will be used for password storage – iCloud Keychain – for Apple devices this fall when iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks are released.
The online versions of Pages, Numbers and Keynote – collectively dubbed iWork for iCloud – will also store their documents in iCloud. The online apps are currently in beta, although that program has been expanded in the last few weeks from developers-only to some members of the general public.
As Apple said in its email and repeated on its support site, if a customer has more than 5GB, backup, file storage and mail will stop working until files have been purged or more space purchased.
Apple has posted instructions for customers who want to check the amount of storage they now consume.
by Gregg Keizer, Computerworld