Could Apple's MobileMe be going free?

MobileMe for iPhone, iPad, Mac, PC hero

There's a rumor making the rounds that Apple's MobileMe service could be going free "sooner than later... depends on certain facilities going operational." (Perhaps a reference to the massive server facility Apple's building in North Carolina.)

Introduced alongside iPhone 2.0 at WWDC 2008 to replace the previous .Mac, the current price tag is $99 for a single user and provides push email, calendar, contacts, iDisk, Galleries, and Find my iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad for mobile users along with Back to my Mac remote file access and screen sharing, iChat accounts, and a host of sync services for Mac users. It's enjoyed almost entirely incremental updates since then.

Competitors ranging from Google and Microsoft down to DropBox and offer similar services in whole or in part, and are either free or have basic levels that are free with optional payments for more storage or other premium services. And it's very hard to compete with free.

It makes a lot of sense -- from where we're sitting at least -- for Apple to adopt the same model. Give everyone the basic email, calendar, contacts, iDisk (though we'd prefer you just rip and replace it with DropBox), etc. for free, give the option to pay for advanced/high capacity services for those who want them.

And, hey, if that iPhone HD/iPhone 4G just happens to ship with a front-facing camera, and the new free version of MobileMe just happens to come with Mobile iChat accounts, maybe iPhone owners will finally have something that makes BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) users jealous...

Again, just a rumor so keep renewing your MobileMe until Steve Jobs or Phil Schiller tells you it's going free and Apple sends you a credit.

[MacDailyNews via TUAW]

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Could Apple's MobileMe be going free?


Wow, I really hope this rumor turns out to be true. I would love the benefits of a "cloud" but sadly, I'm not paying $99 for one year of it. I have enough free emails and the sort that the only benefit is the cloud, which DropBox offers for free if I chose to use it.

I am one of those weird people that loves MobileMe and does not understand why people think that Google calendar is as good.
If it does go free, I wonder will it be open to everyone or just come as free when you buy a new iPhone or mac?
Also if you are currently paid up what will happen then, how will they credit us?

Ha. I already had it for free for a year. Used a debit card that was canceled a couple of days later before it ever posted.

A free base version with paid higher capacity/additional features makes the most sense to me. As a MobileMe subscriber back to the .Mac days, I've always appreciated the service, but this would be a great development. Now if they'd just implement a way to easily sync my iCal to-do's to my iPhone, I'd be really excited!

I'd be kinda annoyed if certain elements went free and others required a premium. How do they know which services I value? I use the email all the time. And I like the way it syncs everything between my macs and my iDevices, and find my iPhone.
However I never use iDisk because it's uselessly slow, and the galleries are hit and miss as it's so difficult to keep my albums synced with iPhoto. At least it is in the version I'm using.
If find my iPhone was part of the premium package along with the just say, iDisk, I'd be pretty damn annoyed to pay extra for services I never use.
At least at the moment I'm getting services I consider worth the price (as mentioned above.)

Alex: I am assuming it will be a free and paid service, much like Dropbox. Dropbox has a free 2GB package, and two higher storage paid versions.

I hate the fact that for a paid service I can't even add a reminder to my calendar items online!
And lets not talk about it being slow, whether it be in Safari, Internet Explorer or FireFox...
I seriously can't see them giving it free. Unless, they give a portion of it free, and then certain features are a premium service.

It will probably go as a free service. Two reasons. First, look at what Apple did with the OS X upgrade last cycle. It want from over $100 to $30+. One would think that it's a huge loss in revenue but with their install base they probably made more than in the past. Item 2? iAd. If it's something that is on the iPhone in 4.0 for other apps then why not Apple's apps? It simply shifts the revenue from subscription to ad supported and allows the services to be offered at no cost. And again, with the number of people using an iPhone and iPad they'll more than make up what's lost from MobileMe subscriptions. Plus, Google's shown that the model works so why not compete with them in an area of their strength. Only one question - can people pay a premium to eliminate the ads?

I just bought a family plan 2 weeks ago, they must plan on supporting it with iAds. Only free to iphone, ipod touch and ipad users.

I love the idea of MobileMe. I hate the fact it wouldn't sync Macbook Pro to iPhone calendars.
It's got to be one of the glitchiest services out there and the tech support is just about non-existent. When I read about the problems people have I'm convinced it's being prioritized the same way as Apple TV. It has so much potential but it's on the cusp of unusable for some people - let alone a service to pay for. I never did pay after the trial was over.
Would "free" change any of that? Doubtful.

I've been using it for 2 year now just to get my emails pushed to my iPhone. It's no way near gmail. Gmail is way much batter, easier, faster and us able to filter ur messages and do much much more then mobile me. Mobile me website doesn't even work on all broswers.

@The Reptile, The reason Snow Leopard was so cheap was because it lacked the bells and whistles customers expect for a OS Upgrade. Sure there was plenty going on behind the scenes, but front end feature upgrades over Leopard were few and far between. They made it cheap because they wanted people to upgrade, but it lacked the WoW! Zing! Must have feature set that Leopard had over Tiger, and Tiger had over Panther.
There's less incentive for them to do so with MobileMe, besides iAd. Which would be an interesting development. Personally I hate ads with bells and whistles, I'd probably stop using the service if it were plastered with ads all over the place.

Regarding iAd - it's just a matter of time before someone will develop something to block it. So that's a cool deal - use free services and dodge the ads.

It would be cool if MobileMe was free, but I'd rather them just have them make it better. I read an article about how MobileMe should be even more integrated into Apple devices with unlimited cloud storage. that would be awesome.

I've had MobileMe for 2 years now and love it. Apple should acquire Dropbox to leverage iDisk capabilities. It works well for me but not as good as Dropbox IMO. As an OmniFocus IPhone and MacBook user, MobileMe is indispensable. Same with iBank. For me, $99 a year for the mobility the service offers is a deal. But free would be better.

Actually, I bought the iPhone when I learned it was MobilMe aware. So yes, I really like it and, for me, it is one of the things I most like from Apple. To be able keep all my Macs synced (contacts, calendar, etc... the usual stuff BUT ALSO Preferences, Dock icons, Dashboard widgets, etc...) In fact, If you're a user of MobileMe and get a new Mac, It is quite impressive to see as, given the time to sync all services, your 'new' Mac is exactly as it was your 'old' one. It even configures Mail for you, Spaces, remembers applications tied to a particular Space (even if they're not yet installed. Once they are, they know where to be launched)
What more can I say? I really find it, in the Mac eco-system, extremely useful!

I'm on a free 2 month trial right now and I like the service but I wouldn't pay 100/month for it because for me it's not necessary. There are other options for the same thing free so if they went free they would get alot of users because they have everything in one package. Then some of those new users would pay for more benefits I think it would be a good way to go.

Plus the convenience of having all your Macs available via 'Back to my mac' right on the Finder!
And the TimeMachine HDs! From anywhere!...

I'd have mobileme right now, but I cant afford it. I'd take a free version, even if it was slightly "watered down".

MobileMe is a staple is stuff I do everyday. Why make it free? So all the people who didn't want it jump on the bandwagon.

It's 100 per year, not per month. You can even pick up a year subscription at Amazon for 70 bucks which translates into ~ 6 bucks a month.

Way back when Apple started the service, it was free. I've used it since then, and I've paid for it since the change to a paid model. Lately I've been considering dropping it at renewal time in October. But for free... Heck yeah.

How do people get confused with it costing $99 a month vs $99 a year? I see so many people say this. This planet is getting scarier by the minute. I'll pay the $99 a year not to have to see iAd crap all over it.

I could see something like email/calendar/contacts for free (with ads) and then pay the premium price to add the other items (and get rid of the ads). I'd hope they lower the price as well, but I don't know if they're compelled to do that yet. I've often thought about canceling my subscription, but then Google would go and tick me off with something (Buzz, making me change my password 3 times in a week, disabling my account, etc.). Plus, every time I feel like I can trust my data to Google, they do something to erase that trust. I guess I just feel more secure with MobileMe because they don't have to cover the costs with things like targeted ads, etc. Might be false security, but I don't even have that with Google sometimes.

I have been a user since it was iTools. It would be great to have it for free. Just like paying to avoid having intrusive ads.

I use Google Apps (free) to perfectly sync contacts, mail accounts and calendars. If MobileMe was free, the only function I would use is the find my iPhone function :-)

What is kind of ironic about all this is that it WAS free when it was first introduced as iTools back in 2000 and Apple even implied at the time it would stay "Free Forever". But it didn't and became a paid service in 2002 when it was changed to .mac. However I found that my .mac e-mail worked great and was a convenience worth paying for so I've been a subscriber since day one. If it goes free it will just make me all the more happy.

would love for mobile me to be free. im thinkin about not renewing my subscription in 2 weeks cuz i can do all the same things on google for FREE!

I suggested this last month when the iPad was released. It makes a lot of sense. It would be a great incentive to go with the iPad and iPhone over competitors, and stay in the Mac ecosystem. One of the reasons I stick with Safari over Firefox, and a reason I don't consider Android or Palm OSs, is that all my bookmarks get synced across all my devices: Mac, iPad, and iPhone. Plus all the other stuff.
Although Mobile Me needs a lot of work, what it does offer is pretty valuable, but one thing that holds it back is not being universally available to all users, and being priced rather expensively for what it does.
It probably would not kill Apple's bottom line to include it for free, at least a basic level of services. They have many revenue streams nowadays and software and bandwidth is relatively cheap.

I am a big apple fan. When we talk about mobile me iDisk it really sucks. Apple needs to improve a lot on this. Dropbox was very cool and it's free for basic users.

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