A new free e-mail account from Apple for most of you

I have some really good news for most of you.   Apple released its new iCloud service this week and I’m pleased to report that all the bugs were worked out within a few days, not a matter of weeks or months like other services.

iCloud is the replacement for Mobile Me (which was formerly known as dot-mac).   I don’t know if any clients were Mobile Me subscribers for use primarily with your Mac or Windows computer, but I know several of you did use the service with your iPhone / iPad.     Mobile Me was an online collaboration service that gave you e-mail, contacts, and calendar (along with some other features) for $99 a year.   The best part about it was that it backed up your contacts on your iPhone / iPad and also synced them with your Mac or Windows computer.   An iDevice was not required to use Mobile Me.

Fast forward to now and Apple has decided to make Mobile Me into iCloud and turn it into a free service.  It is free with no gimmicks attached, much like a Gmail or Yahoo or Hotmail account.    You get an @me.com email address, address book and calendar.  Some other exciting features will apply if you also have an iPhone / iPad / iPod touch.

So how do you get this new account?  First of all existing Mobile Me customers WILL NOT be charged again for a subscription.  You have until April 30, 2012 to convert to iCloud.  Conversion will happen when you authorize iCloud for the first time.

To convert to iCloud or sign up for the first time you need ONE of the following:

Windows — Vista SP2 or Windows 7 and download the iCloud program http://www.apple.com/icloud/setup/pc.html

*For Windows, this service will be web based unless you use Outlook 2007 or 2010.  With Outlook, you are able to sync e-mail, contacts, and calendar.

Mac — OS X 10.7.2 which was released on Wednesday.  If you are already running 10.7 Lion, this is a free update.

An iOS 5 device — iPhone 3GS, 4, 4S, iPad, iPad2, iPod Touch 3rd or 4th gen.

When you log in for the first time, you will be asked to create an Apple ID.  If you have purchased from iTunes before or Apple.com, you have an Apple ID, your e-mail address.  You can use this, you will later have the option of attaching a new @me.com e-mail address to this later.    If you don’t have an Apple ID or want to create a fresh profile, then you can do that as well.   In this scenario your @me.com address is your new Apple ID.

I’ve always shared how having a second or third e-mail account, not connected to your Internet service is crucial.  If you don’t use an iPhone or other iDevice, here is why the iCloud still makes sense.   What if your primary e-mail just isn’t working when you NEED to receive an important email from someone?  Now you have a backup.    Want to keep a separate account for your online shopping?  Perhaps your johnnybegood(at)yahoo(dot)com account that you created when you were in a humorous mood or when you were a student is NOT the professional presence you would like to use for job searching.   Well, a your.name(at)me(dot)com account could give you that edge.

Please ask for help, if necessary in creating an iCloud account or converting to it.   This article should be read as a primer.