By John Gruber
Work at Atoms. Make the best shoes ever.
Poking around the updated files in 10.5.3, the Russian-language site Deep Apple noticed that iCal’s “Localizable.strings” resource file now contains placeholders for the name “.Mac”, with the following comment:
/* Label of the .Mac button in iCal’s General preferences. %@ is the new name of Apple’s online service (was .Mac) (remove -XX02) */
This is new to 10.5.3; in 10.5.2, the name “.Mac” was hard-coded, not a localizable string.
Dmitry Chestnykh at Coding Robots followed Deep Apple’s lead and uncovered similar localization strings for “.Mac” elsewhere in 10.5.3, including Safari and Apple Mail. Chestnykh writes:
I looked into binaries to find out what the new name is, but it seems like apps take this value from /System/Library/PreferencePanes/Mac.prefPane, which still has the old name. It seems like it will be updated via Software Update once Apple renames .Mac and — boom! — all your apps will have the new name.
It’s not exactly a secret that, as I wrote a few weeks ago, .Mac is .bad. But in addition to the service being of sketchy quality, the name is crap, too. It looks and sounds silly, for one thing (you know it’s a bad name when the gist of it is so similar to that of a Microsoft initiative like .NET), but for another, tying the service’s name explicitly to “Mac” would make it awkward to, say, introduce new features for over-the-network synching of data to iPhones and iPods belonging to Windows users.1
Why expand .Mac to include iPhone synching? Consider the new over-the-air push synching of email, contacts, and calendars Apple has already revealed for the scheduled-for-release-next-month iPhone OS 2.0. As it stands now, these features will only be available for users of Microsoft Exchange. Awkward. Assuming Apple wants to bring similar features to non-Exchange users, too, what we now call .Mac seems the mostly likely route.
But so what might the new name be? Sync and web seem like apt words, but Apple’s already used “iSync” and “iWeb”. Mobile, perhaps? That fits with Apple’s priorities. At the end of my “Why Apple Won’t Buy Adobe” piece two weeks ago, I wrote:
And so if Apple, under Jobs, is tightly focused, what is it that they’re focused on? It’s not the pro market. It’s mobility — iPhone, iPod, MacBook Air.
“iMobile”, though, sounds wrong.2 But a bit of searching leads back to these reports from January 2006 regarding trademark filings from Apple for the term “Mobile Me”. AppleInsider reported that Apple filed four separate filings for the term, including two portable electronic devices and a music-over-the-network service. But it’s the fourth filing for “Mobile Me” that’s the most interesting:
“Telecommunication services; electronic transmission and retrieval of data, images, audio, video and documents, including text, cards, letters, messages, mail, animations, and electronic mail, over local or global communications networks, including the internet, intranets, extranets, television, mobile communication, cellular and satellite networks; electronic transmission of computer software over local or global communications networks, including the internet, intranets, extranets, television, mobile communication, cellular, and satellite networks; electronic mail services; facsimile transmission; web site portal services; providing access to databases and local or global communications networks, including the internet, intranets, extranets, television, mobile communication, cellular, and satellite networks; internet service provider services; message transmission services, namely, electronic transmission of messages; telecommunication services for the dissemination of information by mobile telephone, namely the transmission of data to mobile telephones; mobile telephone communication services.”
Sounds a bit like the description of a revamped .Mac geared toward over-the-network synching to iPhones, no?