MobileMe On the Cheap

ScreenshotApple’s newly-announced MobileMe service looks to offer a variety of useful features for the web worker:

  • Continuous push synchronization for email, contacts, and calendars
  • Online access to your mail, contacts, and calendar
  • Photo-sharing through MobileMe Gallery
  • 20GB of file storage that mounts as a drive on OS X and that includes public file sharing

The web interface for MobileMe looks gorgeous, and there is direct integration with many of the Mac’s desktop applications and the iPhone’s native applications. But this polish comes at a cost: $99 per year, every year as long as you want to use it. If you can do without some of the eye candy and the Apple name, you can save a bundle and get nearly equivalent services. Here’s how.Synchronization: This is the toughest nut to crack, but there are some worthy contenders out there. Soocial (currently in closed beta) is tackling the contact synchronization space, including OS X Address Book, GMail, Highrise, phone, and online. Spanning Sync ($65) offers calendar sync (Mac, Google, iPhone) and has contact synchronization in beta. Open-source project Funambol has announced wireless sync for iPhone 2.0, including push email, contacts and (later) calendars and notes.

Online Access: If you go with a synchronization solution that includes Google compatibility, then GMail and Google Calendar are the obvious answers here. They are not nearly as pretty as the corresponding MobileMe applications, but they have their own attractions (such as the amazing search capabilities and available tweaks for GMail). They’re also free.

Photo Sharing: Flickr, Photobucket, DropShots – how many free photo sharing sites do you need? If you go with PhotoBucket you can use the free PictureSync application to get desktop features. Flickr users have the $25 utility Photonic for the Mac.

Online File Storage and Sharing: ADrive gets you 50GB of storage for free, with sharing features. We’ve covered a bunch of other alternatives, with varying features, all including “free.”

MobileMe certainly has things going for it: chief among these are its pervasive integration with OS X (both on the desktop and in the iPhone) and Apple’s legendary design sense. Whether that’s enough to pay $99 per year for is an open question, though. Given the number of different services that overlap its capabilities in many areas, that will be a tough price to justify for many web workers.

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