MobileMe can only be "new and improved" if Apple kills subscription fee

For as many headlines as Apple generates, there aren't too many that center around the company's subscription cloud offering, called Mobile Me. Suddenly, though, in the days ahead of a March 2 Apple news event, there's a flurry of online posts suggesting that a revamp of MobileMe may be on the lineup of announcements that day.

For as many headlines as Apple generates, there aren't too many that center around the company's subscription cloud offering, called Mobile Me. Suddenly, though, in the days ahead of a March 2 Apple news event, there's a flurry of online posts suggesting that a revamp of MobileMe may be on the lineup of announcements that day.

The AppleInsider blog is reporting that Apple has removed the Mobileme product from its online stores and told resellers that it has discontinued the box version, tagging it as "End of Life" product. That has led some to believe Apple is getting ready for a major upgrade sooner rather than later. And some sources told the blog that CEO Steve Jobs, who is on medical leave, is still very hands-on when it comes to the new iPhones and MobileMe.

The first order of business should be to dump the paid subscription and start offering it for free, giving users an opportunity to sync their data with Apple's other products and devices.

That's one of the biggest downfalls of MobileMe, Why should users have to pay $99 per year to sync things like my e-mail, calendar and contacts when my Gmail and Yahoo mail accounts are already offering those services at no charge - and building versions for mobile devices so that users can access their information from any device or location?

Likewise, I can't see paying Apple so that I can share my photos when sites like Flikr, Picasa and even Facebook are giving users a way to do that for free. The same goes for music, which is being streamed over Pandora or even synced with an iTunes folder via Mspot.

And, as for file storage, companies like DropBox and SugarSync are finding ways for consumers to store, access and share personal files of all types via the cloud - with a small amount of storage being offered for free and larger capacities being offered for a premium.

It seems almost funny to think that Apple would start giving away online storage. After all, when it comes to storage, that's how Apple tiers its products for pricing. Just look at items like the iPhone and iPad, which are sold according to the amount of capacity they offer. And, of course, there are no slots for inserting SD cards on those devices, either.

After all, why would anyone buy a 64 GB device when you could pick up the same device with only 32 GB - at a significant savings - and then slip some SD cards it in to expand the amount of space in it?

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was considering dumping the paid subscription model and offering online storage for free, a move that would be a good start at winning over new subscribers even if it will be a tough sell for those existing customers who already have their lives in the clouds set-up elsewhere.

The Journal also reported that MobileMe could become a "focal point" for a new online music service that Apple has had in development for more than a year. Not that we haven't been hearing buzz about Apple's online music offering for some time already.

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