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Opinion: Move over .Mac., here comes MobileMe

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

June 11, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - SAN FRANCISCO -- When Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs took the stage on Monday at Apple Inc.'s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), the focus of attention was on the new iPhone 3G and iPhone 2.0 -- the coming firmware update for all iPhones that will bring with it a slew of new applications.

But one of the most important announcements concerned Apple's new suite of online services, called MobileMe. Think of it as a revamped .Mac with an eye on tying the iPhone to what has until now been largely a syncing/storage/Web-based tool. Oh, and say goodbye to .Mac, which will disappear next month, replaced basically by ".me." Old .Mac e-mail accounts and Web pages will still work fine. But the emphasis will be on "Me." In fact. .Mac e-mail addresses can be converted to .me addresses once .Mac users are upgraded to MobileMe.

MobileMe, which will offer twice the storage space now allocated for .Mac members -- 20GB instead of 10GB -- will continue to cost $99 a year.

What's new now, and what's important, is the emphasis on the push technology unveiled in the upcoming iPhone 2.0 software update. On the business front, that software adds direct integration for Microsoft's ActiveSync technology out of the box. This eliminates the added server, software and licensing costs inherent to the BlackBerry and simplifies the job of IT support. By licensing Microsoft's ActiveSync technology, Apple is making the iPhone a real alternative to the popular BlackBerry, which offers similar 'push' functionality. For those without access to an Exchange server and Active Sync, MobileMe offers a solution.

Put simply: Exchange enables push technology for business users; MobileMe means push technology for the rest of us.

When it comes to push technology, the iPhone currently has to "poll" or constantly ping a server for status updates, usually at set intervals. E-mail on the iPhone, for example, currently uses this polling technique to check for new mail -- a setup that hits battery life and can eat up processor cycles. That's because this polling often runs as a background application. The reduction in battery life is noticeable when the iPhone is set to check for e-mail every 15 minutes instead of, say, every 30 minutes. Once the push technology is in place, the iPhone will be automatically alerted when e-mail arrives or when any actions occur in applications that take advantage of push.

Scenes from Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference outside the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
Scenes from Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference outside the Moscone Center in San Francisco.
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During Jobs' WWDC keynote, Apple noted that developers will be able to incorporate this type of push technology into their apps instead of using traditional background processes. The decidedly inconvenient caveat is that this application programming interface (API) won't be available to developers until September. (Exchange and MobileMe push support will be available in early July, however, with the next iPhone software update.)



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