Apple targets SMEs with .Mac upgrade

Aiming to capitalise on the business use for its online services, Apple is adding collaboration tools

Apple is taking on the likes of Yahoo with the addition of a groups offering and more storage space to its .Mac product.

Despite a consumer focus, .Mac is already proving popular with small businesses: Rob Schoeben, Apple's vice-president of applications marketing said that around one in four .Mac users are SMEs or freelancers.

.Mac, which already acts as an online repository for photos, movies and other files as well as an automated back-up application, has now been expanded to offer groups functionality, building the Internet into traditional Apple apps to encourage online collaboration.

Subscribers will now be able to invite others to upload and share files, calendar and contact information; build email lists; and allow and disallow membership, using their .Mac site.

.Mac remains a subscription service, with the cheapest year-long subscription starting at £68.99 in the UK.

Schoeben said the new services mean Mac users need not look outside of Apple for group communications. "Mac users shouldn't have to send an email with an ad on the bottom and they shouldn't have to set up their groups site on Yahoo."

He added that the company had examined an advertising-based model but decided to opt for a subscription model as it was more in keeping with the Apple tradition.

.Mac storage has also been bolstered to fit the new groups model. Individual users can now get 1GB instead of 250MB, while a family can use 2GB of combined storage, with options to buy more storage.

With the spruced-up .Mac, Apple users can access and synchronise all their usual Mac settings and files on any number of computers, including those running Windows. "When you're away, you can still get a little bit of Mac, even on a PC," Schoeben said.