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E-mail's not free? Mac owners flee

Apple Computer's plan to start charging for its Mac.com e-mail service has Mac owners scrambling for alternatives.

Apple Computer's plan to start charging for its Mac.com e-mail service has Mac owners scrambling for alternatives.

Even as a petition circulates to try to get Apple to change its mind, many users are shopping around for a lower-cost way to get their mail before Apple pulls the plug on the free service at the end of September.

"I am most upset because I felt I purchased this when I bought the OS," said software engineer Paul Causey, who has now signed up for a free e-mail account through Yahoo. "Each time I went into an Apple store, they sold me on the idea of iDisk and e-mail."

Although Apple never explicitly said that the accounts would be free for life, many Mac users had counted on it and were not happy when CEO Steve Jobs announced that, starting in September, the e-mail accounts will become part of Apple's $99 per year .Mac service.

While many are likely to go to Yahoo or Microsoft's Hotmail, a number of choices have emerged that allow Mac owners to still proclaim their love of the Mac despite their displeasure with Apple over the new fees.

Mac community site MacOSX.com is offering Mac fans the option of signing up for an address with that domain. The company is offering a variety of options ranging from Webmail accounts with 5MB of storage for $10 a year, to server-based e-mail accounts with 50MB of storage for $25 a year.

Scott William, the founder of MacOSX.com said he decided to offer e-mail accounts because of the uproar that followed Apple's decision to charge a flat fee for .Mac rather than offering a cheaper price for those who wanted only e-mail.

"The community was saying, 'Hey we need something new, an alternative,'" William said. "Ninety-nine dollars is a high price tag each year for an e-mail account."

William said he has not had any complaints in the past from Apple over his use of the MacOSX.com domain name. An Apple representative was not immediately available to comment about the competing e-mail service.

MacOSX.com's e-mail service is provided by Digital Crowd, which has also been selling macsrule.com e-mail addresses since 1996.

William said Apple's price for .Mac isn't bad for all the services offered, such as online file storage, Web page hosting and anti-virus software.

"For what people are getting its a great deal," William said. "But what people are wanting is just an e-mail service."

Mac.com account holder Ryan Marsh said changing e-mail addresses is the big problem.

"I don't want MacOSX.com, or Macguy.com, or any other macsomething.com," Marsh said in an e-mail. "The point is not having to switch e-mail addresses and tell all my contacts that I'm switching e-mail addresses."

Causey said that Apple's move is alienating 95 percent of its users. Some 2.2 million free Mac.com accounts had been registered, according to Apple.

"As an Apple stockholder, I am very upset," Causey said. "As an Apple customer, I am livid."