Apple Getting Serious About the Cloud With Free MobileMe in April?

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Earlier this month, Macerkopf.de claimed a “trustworthy” source had revealed plans by Apple for a software-only event during the first or second week of April. The event would be to preview iOS 5 and relaunch MobileMe, both of which had been previously rumored for the iPad 2 announcement event, which didn’t happen. According to the rumor, better integration with iOS 5 and MobileMe is expected, as well as more social networking, like the Find My Friends service, and remote photo and media streams.

Citing a “trusted source” at a “major educational institution,” iLounge is also now also predicting a MobileMe relaunch in April. A new, free version of the online service will apparently coexist alongside the current paid version for the next year. Presumably, that would cover those like myself unfortunate enough to have recently renewed their MobileMe account, but without Apple having to offer refunds or credits. However, a deprecated service running alongside a free one seems confusing and very much out of character for Apple, and I think it’s more likely a free service would coexist alongside other paid tiers.

The possibility of an imminent iOS 5 preview does seem likely, too. Last year, the iOS 4 preview showed multi-tasking, Game Center, iAd, and AirPrint, though the last was eventually scaled back from its earlier incarnation. Perhaps we’ll get an update on AirPrint this year in iOS 5 that expands support beyond a few select printers.

As for MobileMe, the recent discontinuation of retail boxes is probably the best indicator of an imminent relaunch. Besides that, it’s been widely rumored that some kind of storage “locker” for media content, music and video, will be part of the service. The most interesting social networking feature that’s been talked about for the service is a new personal homepage, dynamically updated based upon where you are and what you are doing.

While “free” is likely the most anticipated potential feature of a new MobileMe, I’d personally prefer Apple-hosted domains. What features are you looking for in a new MobileMe?

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