Move over .Mac., here comes MobileMe

Apple's move to MobileMe strengthens the iPhone as a platform

Apple is doing this by bringing the equivalents of its Mac desktop applications to the Web using the AJAX programming language -- effectively bringing a measure of "cloud computing" to Mac and Windows users. The Web-based apps, which appear to work just as their desktop equals do, can be accessed on a Mac via Safari 3 or Firefox 2; Windows machines require Safari 3, Firefox 2, or IE 7.

PC users can expect to find that MobileMe works with Outlook and Express, Safari and IE -- and with the Windows contact applications. PC users can even sync data such as calendars, contacts, e-mail and bookmarks across multiple machines and Apple devices.

Current .Mac users take note: most of the features now in place will remain, including: Back to my Mac, iDisk Finder access, photo- and file-sharing from the iApps and Aperture, iWeb publishing, and the syncing of contacts, calendars, and bookmarks across multiple Macs. Some services, however, like Apple's iCards and the .Mac slide show -- it allows you to share photos as screensavers with others -- didn't make the cut. Apple has not said why.

On the plus side, in addition to the doubling of individual storage space to 20GB, the MobileMe Family Packs will receive 40GB of storage (20GB for the main account, 5GB each additional for four accounts). As before, Apple allows users to pay for even more storage.

Apple's iPhone-based announcements this week are a clear indicator that the company is positioning the iPhone as its next major platform. Between the iPhone hardware upgrades, software and application support, and now over-the-air data-push for consumers, Apple is clearly intent on distancing itself from other smartphone makers. By offering users a feature long taken for granted by business users, Apple's new service turns its iPhone into an extremely mobile extension of the desktop, allowing not only for mobile computing and communication but making it easy to do and virtually ubiquitous.

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Michael deAgonia

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