MobileMe has always been kind of an orphaned child at Apple (AAPL). It has often been sold as a must have for Apple iPhone and iPad users but never really given much attention. It has been treated as a hobby, much like its hardware cousin AppleTV. One of the main reasons for its suffering is that many of the features Apple proposes charging you for are already provided by Google for free. According to a report on TUAW, that might all be about to change.
It should come as little surprise to Apple followers that they view Google as their main competition, not Microsoft. They compete with Google in the smartphone space, in the services space, and soon in the tablet space. This is the original battle of Silicon Valley renewed for the early Twenty-First Century. It makes sense then that Apple would look for ways to undercut Google; especially in the way Google has insidiously (at least in Apple’s view) worked its way into Apple’s platform. One of the most direct ways they compete is in perhaps one of the tiniest ways as well; device synchronization. Since its inception in 2000 as iTools, Apple has touted MobileMe as the synchronization service of choice for Apple users. iTools originally started in 2000 as a free service for Mac users that grew into the .Mac service in 2002 that charged a subscription, to the MobileMe of today that costs $99 USD per year. All during that time Google has grown its synchronization services while not charging a single penny for them. Google, after all, isn’t really in that end of the business to make money. All of the services Google provides are really about driving users back to the center of their profit machine; advertising. Google’s logic is the more people use their services the more they are exposed to Google and the more people are exposed to Google the more they are exposed to the advertising Google is selling. Their synchronization services are the ultimate loss leader. Today, the only thing a user cannot do with a Google service they can do with MobileMe is find or deactivate a lost iPhone or iPad.
So we find ourselves today at TUAW’s report. According to unconfirmed rumors, MobileMe will be soon be made free. A free MobileMe would be very attractive for users who would otherwise use the service but have been hesitant about the price tag. It is certainly a much more integrated service without the need for Exchange ActiveSync workaround currently used to provide push connectivity to Google services. This is an obvious move against Google and would probably be successful in luring back disaffected iPhone and iPad users. The TUAW report refers to this being dependent on certain facilities becoming operational. This certainly means Apple’s massive mystery server farm in North Carolina. Once Apple flips the switch on that facility, a whole new world of possibility opens up for them. A free MobileMe may be the first in a long line of Apple cloud services meant to drive people away from Google and into the Apple fold. The next will most likely be a cloud-based iTunes. Once Apple and Google are on a relatively equal footing in the software and hardware space, the real battle will begin.
What do you think of Apple’s rumored move to free MobileMe? Have they decided to take a page from Google’s book and provide free services as an enticement for other offerings? What device synchronization services do you use now? Would you move from Google to MobileMe if there was no cost involved? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section.