Tomorrow Apple, Inc. will automatically deduct $99 from my credit card for MobileMe subscription — and I’m not actually happy about that fact. I am cornered for payment annually, because they own my e-mail. A decision I regret every year at the this time.
There might be a glimmer of hope in the irritation, however. More than enough has been said about the now infamous North Carolina data center, but I truly believe it carries the key that unlocks a valuable MobileMe service. There are at least as many ideas for what the data center is for as there are hairs on my head, so why not add my own.
Google has proved this is (mostly) possible on its Android platform — to setup a new Android device, Google credentials are entered, and all of the Google services that you use are automatically synced over-the-air to the device. Imagine being able to do the same with your iPhone. MobileMe incorporates this functionality to some extent for mail, calendars and contacts (the only reason I begrudgingly shovel over my money); but imagine if your media could be transferred with it. Just this week Google introduced its Music Beta, and at the same time Amazon is launching their Cloud Drive and Cloud Player services. Apple won’t sit by while Google and Amazon start allowing us to put our media on their servers to stream wherever we please.
A lot is being said about over-the-air updates to the OS itself, I don’t think this is in the cards just yet. The size of iOS updates at this point is a bit large, and failure could be troubling, at best, to recover from. I’m also skeptical about any of this over-the-air sync capability to work via the 3G connection at first, and will likely be wifi only until 4G integration is introduced to the platform. Though my experience is with AT&T, and this would be a handy set of marketing for Verizon when they’re the only carrier that allows it.
Let’s face it, Dropbox has this space completely cornered. For no money whatsoever I have 2GB of space that is synced flawlessly to all of my devices (iMac, MacBook Pro, Web, iPhone, iPad). For $99 a year, this is what iDisk should have been. I don’t know what Apple need to do, but fixing iDisk to compete with Dropbox needs to be a priority. I get 20GB to share across my iDisk and e-mail, much more space then Dropbox, but the syncing isn’t on par and Dropbox is just so much more Apple-like than iDisk… how’s that for a critique?
I don’t think this crazy data center is needed, or related, to this feature. More like Apple needs to refocus some energy in this space and hire some brains to fix it, or buy Dropbox with some of their $80 Billion in cash.
I really don’t believe MobileMe will become an entirely free service, Apple always expects dollars for their superior service — the only difference here is that this service is not superior. Apple knows MobileMe is sub-par and needs attention, and I think that it has likely seen that attention in the past couple of years. There have been multiple iterative updates to the web interface over the past year — a cleaner mail and calendar — and Find My iPhone has gone free. Let’s not forget the excellent Back to My Mac, the unsung hero of MobileMe, and probably the second of the two reasons I’m willing to fork over the dough.
Apple will, of course, change the playing field when they finally turn on the new MobileMe. What the consensus of want is now (Dropbox-like sync, over-the-air media for my iDevices, FREE e-mail/calendar/photos, etc) I think we will get, but there are probably more than a couple of secrets left up Steve’s sleeve.
I envision a price tier for the new MobileMe that goes like this:
And I think that’s it. The storage capacity is linked to the iDevices available at the time, so there is the possibility of all of your sync-able media living in your iDisk Locker and synced down to all of your devices. This type of pricing falls in line with Apple’s other products as well, one set of standard services differentiated by one or two easy to understand extra features.
I’m probably crazy, but I think it makes sense. In the age of Web 2.0 there are two things that aren’t commoditized yet, storage and bandwidth. MobileMe will be worth a reasonable price that covers those two factors. But the time for Apple to collect $99/year for basic web services available for free/way cheaper elsewhere is over. Come on MobileMe 2.0, I can’t wait.
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