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Apple extends .Mac sign-up deadline

Mac users who have not converted their free iTools accounts to paid .Mac subscriptions have a little more time to consider whether to make the switch.

Mac users who have not converted their free iTools accounts to paid .Mac subscriptions have a little more time to consider whether to make the switch.

Apple Computer said Friday it is extending the deadline until Oct. 14 for users of the free e-mail, Web hosting and online storage service to subscribe to Apple's new .Mac service, which was launched in July. Initially, iTools users were given until the end of the day Sept. 30 to pay a discounted annual fee of $49.95 or lose their iTools account, including all information stored in their e-mail, files stored online and Web pages they had created using Apple's HomePage feature.

The $49.95 fee represents a discount to the full price of $99 that Apple is charging subscribers who had not previously signed up for iTools. Apple has also added incentives, such as 100 free prints of digital photos, in an effort to boost subscriptions.

"The launch of the .Mac suite of Internet services and software has been a phenomenal success," Apple said in a statement provided to CNET News.com. "In order to make sure that every iTools customer has the opportunity to take advantage of the special $49.95 membership offer, even the ones who've waited until the last minute, we've decided to extend the deadline."

Apple's move to charge users for the service has caused resentment among some in the Mac community who believed Apple was offering free e-mail accounts for life when it introduced the iTools.

However, no one has yet turned up evidence that Apple ever said the accounts would be provided free in perpetuity.

Earlier this month, Apple touted that 100,000 users have signed up for the paid service. However, that total is less than 5 percent of the iTools accounts that Apple had handed out.

There is a question of just how many people were using iTools. Although there were 2.2 million registered iTools accounts, many people signed up for more than one account.

Mac user Kevin Padraja of San Francisco said he has not yet decided whether to pay for .Mac.

"Well, I'm still torn, but I'll likely make the 11th hour decision to sign up for .Mac (for this year anyway)," Padraja wrote in an e-mail. "I used iTools to create several Web pages and I'm not thrilled by the prospect of having to take them down and reconstitute them elsewhere."

Aside from not wanting to pay for a service that had been free, a chief complaint has been that Apple did not offer a less expensive plan for people who only want a Mac.com e-mail account. Apple does offer those who sign up for a full .Mac account to add additional e-mail accounts for $10 a year.

Tony Martin, a student who lives in Berkeley, Calif., is one of the 100,000 who have signed up and doesn't blame Apple for charging for the service. Martin said he had already paid $100 a year to add 100MB of storage to his main iTools account, thus the change had little impact. "I am one of the few happy campers," he said.

He also noted that Apple probably never had 2.2 million people using the service, meaning that Apple's apparent retention rate of less than 5 percent is probably higher.

"I, for one, had a dozen iTools usernames, maybe more," Martin said. "I've signed up for .Mac, but one account will have to do."