It’s that time of year again. The nights are getting longer, the days colder and I’m looking forward to a week of solid drinking, eating and not working.

To add to this festive cheer Apple has just sent me a renewal notice for its .Mac service (www.mac.com). For this service Apple wants £70 (although you can buy a boxed copy for £57 from Amazon, which renews it just as well).

Normally I pay up, but this year I’m fighting back. I’ve had enough! Dammit that’s a lot of money – and the service, to be brutally honest: ain’t worth it.

Don’t get me wrong: .Mac is very handy. It syncs Safari, Mail, iCal and Address book. Provides me with a virtual online hard drive (that appears on the desktop) and enables me to create handy online photo galleries so my friends can see pictures of us getting trashed down the pub; and my folks can see pics of me and my girlfriend playing nicely with the nephews and nieces.

But… the internet waits for no man, and I can get all of this online for free: Google syncs up Firefox, Google Calendar does the same thing as iCal, Mail is a bit unnecessary thanks to Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo mail and a host of others. AIM takes care of iChat (all my friends are on MSN Messenger anyway, so I use Yahoo Messenger to talk to them without dirtying my hands with Microsoft’s sub-standard Mac software). Flickr and a host of other services are willing to host my pics online. Finally Box.net and Xdrive.com take care of the virtual disk space.

Sure, .Mac may bring it all together in one place and integrate better with OS X. But £70 a year’s a lot of money. Some would say too much. I’d be one of them.

In short: there’s nothing .Mac offers that isn’t being given away for free by everybody else. So why the £70 charge? Steve Jobs alone knows.

So here's a message to Apple. Either sort the price out (£29 is probably the maximum I'd pay for this - even that'd be a liberty), make it free (if Google can; so can you), or can it altogether. The .Mac service is frankly embarrassing.