Blog Post

More Evidence That MobileMe Could Soon Be Free

Amidst the launch of new MacBook Pros, the developer preview release of OS X Lion, and the introduction of FaceTime to the Mac App Store, it’s easy to overlook what’s missing at Apple’s (s aapl) website today. That would be MobileMe, or at least the option to purchase Apple’s suite of online services. Apple has not only notified resellers that the company is discontinuing sales of the retail box, but it has also stopped offering MobileMe for sale digitally at the Apple Store online. Current users can still renew their services, and sign up for a free trial (with an option to pay for an upgrade) outside of the store, but indications suggest that MobileMe will soon be free.

Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported Apple was preparing a major redesign of MobileMe set to launch in the summer alongside a new iPhone. According to “people familiar with the matter,” Apple was “considering” making the service free, offering a “locker” for files, photos, music, and videos. Social features would also be a big part of the new MobileMe.

Cult of Mac followed up on that report with a list of new features coming to Apple’s cloud services suite, including personal video streaming and location services similar to Foursquare and Facebook Places, as well as the ability to find other MobileMe users nearby. All this information would appear on a brand new homepage, and be constantly updated from iOS devices. According to Cult of Mac’s source, “the concept is that you would have you own website that’s dynamic, all based on what you are doing at that moment. Apple thinks of it as having a webserver in your pocket… everything will be dynamically updated to MobileMe.”

If those rumors sound overly ambitious for MobileMe, the service is set to benefit from significant additional resources very soon. At the Apple shareholder’s meeting on Wednesday, COO Tim Cook announced that the billion-dollar data center in Maiden, NC would be opening in the immediate future, and it would be supporting both iTunes and MobileMe services. The opening of that data center may be advancing the timetable for the new MobileMe. Conveniently, Apple is widely expected to introduce a new iPad at an event next Wednesday. A high-profile event like that would also provide an excellent opportunity to reintroduce MobileMe to the public.

That means that current MobileMe users should think seriously about not renewing their memberships at this time. Keep in mind a MobileMe subscription can be reactivated up to 45 days after expiration. If, like me, you’ve recently renewed, don’t expect a refund. However, it’s almost a sure thing that Apple will offer a value-added rank of additional paid services that current MobileMe subscribers will be automatically switched to if it does end up making the basic service free. Let’s hope that whatever the new MobileMe “Premium” offers, it costs less than the current $99, as the days of picking up cheap activation codes on eBay have probably ended with the discontinuation of the physical box sales.

Nonetheless, as a long-time MobileMe user I’m excited about the prospect of a rejuvenated service with new features—domain hosting would be awesome—for me and a free version that will help grow the MobileMe platform and user base. What features are you hoping for in the new MobileMe, and would you switch from using comparable services from Google and others if it does become free?

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

12 Responses to “More Evidence That MobileMe Could Soon Be Free”

  1. For me the only added feature I need is the ability to keep my own email address rather than I would pay for it as I do through my gmail business account at the moment with no hesitation.

  2. i truly expect apple to model mobileme to challenge services by (except the basisc search engine+maps, in which google is awesome).
    2. I definitely expect free site hosting (better than googlesites) apart from online storage of everyhting under sun,
    3. with a total upper storage limit say 8Gb, i mean google is giving 8gb storage free, why not apple.
    4. also features like giving presentation straight from mobileme account straightaway
    5. Apologies to paid mobileme users, but paying for such service was simply outrageuos. How can apple ask for service which google is giving free and so accessible , now wonder dropbox took the loopöhole to thier profit.
    6. if moile me mail is atöeast as nice as gmail, i will switch,

  3. Justin makes some good points. I too have paid for years. However, I would hope that past clients who paid would be given a more premium service as a thank you, for free, for say a year. Then we could pay (a more reasonable) extra after that for the premium services.
    But, here’s the thing: most of what MM does can be found for free. Most of what it may do for a premium, can be had for free or very little money and is often better than MobileMe So, I think this is a case where we need to blame ourselves for essentially supporting a pretty lack luster service with our dollars (and/or laziness, perhaps, for some of us) which, sadly, Apple has finally concluded should just be part of the computing experience. For free.
    Regardless, I am upset because my service expires about 3 weeks into March. I would rather NOT renew if it will be free in April or May (or even later, for that matter) but, at the same time, I do use the back up services for sure. I would like that to keep working until it is free. And for Apple to give us more information about the changes ASAP. Dates, process, refunds or credits, etc.

  4. As a long time .Mac/Mobile Me I’m not too happy about the possability of MobileMe service being offered free. For me, I have been paying for this for years, as I liked having the unique and premium email domain, bc not everyone had it. Now the service that many of us have been paying for will be given to just anyone, destroying the exclusivity for the service.

    I feel that they should def make some “basic” features free/discounted, but to not give away email for free, unless it’s on a different domain rather than, it kinda feels like we have sponsorded the developement of the service to some degree.

    Hopefully Apple makes it right for us who have paid faithfully for years. Am I the only one who would be slightly offened if they were to offer some of the features for free, while the rest of us had been paying for this for years?

  5. As a long time .mac/MobileMe user, the one thing I’ve long urged for is for the iDisk and User folders to merge, so I don’t have to keep files in my iDisk ‘Documents’ folder that I want backed up and can just use the User folders instead… I can see a free MobileMe offering email, calendar and contact syncing and perhaps a small amount of online storage. Hopefully paying members get more space and some other interesting bonuses.