Opinion: How Apple can save MobileMe

Apple [AAPL] CEO Steve Jobs made the news today with a promise his company will make its online hosted MobileMe service much better next year. Other than improved stability, reliability and consistent performance, just what exactly do we want Apple to give us? Here's a few suggestions.

The context: Frequently-voiced MobileMe user complaints include patchy performance, unexplained outages, sync problems, slow image loads, difficulties uploading iWeb sites and more.

So, other than investing in faster servers, improving its outage reporting systems, ensuring better performance even for international users and waving a wand to make iWeb uploads easier to manage, faster and more efficient, what can Apple do to make MobileMe a Mac essential?

Make it free

Apple is making billions. Does it really need the MobileMe tax when all the world now agrees that free services such as Facebook or Google Docs are the new DNA? Couldn't it recoup some lost cash by sewing some of those iAds in there?

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Hosted iWork and iLife applications:

Not just sharing as you can with the almost unused iWork.com, but full Web apps as seen in Google Docs. I want to grab an image with my iPad camera (uh-huh) and be able to put it straight into that iMovie project I've been working on, after editing it using iPhoto.


Make it possible to add comments and ratings (even something like a like button) on hosted images. Make it social, make it possible to add words, comments and descriptions as Flickr does. Make it fast and responsive, rather than slow and cranky.

Increase capacity

iDisk offers 20GB storage as standard. Additional storage costs you more. There was a time when 20GB sounded like a lot. It doesn't any more.


My address book is bloated. I've used it badly, I admit. I need some help. For Mail and email at least, I'd like an easy way to automate such tasks as:

  • Track down email addresses you've written to within a specific period of time (a year, a month);
  • Identify addresses you exchange two-way correspondence with most frequently;
  • Identify and mark addresses thought to be inactive, no longer functioning or spam.

How much easier would such features make the process of winnowing out the chaff from your contacts collection in order to create an address book you actually need?

I'm sure most of my readers are more organized with such things than myself, I feel bad about that. But please, Apple, help time-poor chaotics like myself.

Even better -- make these operations possible using MobileMe and your Web browser. Then make it possible to populate all your synced devices with the revised address book with a touch of a button.

Wireless Sync

Can we make this happen across applications and devices now please?

iMovie sharing

We can share photos and movies in MobileMe Gallery. Why isn't there a dedicated place in which Mac users can share their home-made movies with others? Not subsumed as part of something else, but given their own socially-connected home online.

I'm not convinced MobileMe Gallery is this place.

In addition I don't think MobileMe Galleries are easy enough to explore -- there must be so much content in there, why not make this a social place for image (or video) exploration, comment and sharing?

Speaking of social, how about controls to make it possible to upload people's work to Facebook (or Digg or Stumbleupon), if copyright owners are willing to permit such use.

And lets make MobileMe more of a community, while we're at it, automatically populated with content grabbed from member's Facebook pages, MySpace and Digg or StumbleUpon archives. Why not?

Take me Home

Please. I need to go Home. I've been trapped in a motorway service station without an essential file; turned-up in a different country without my presentation and happened to be in the same place as a client when they request a specific file. What can MobileMe do to improve this? The answer is Home.

There's been talk before of Apple working toward making its own portable Homes. I'm seeing its huge new data center in NC as part of this solution (I hope). How might this work?

Look at iDisk sync. You can already sync iDisk on your Mac with iDisk on .Me. Now imagine this was your Home directory, protected by military-grade authentication and encryption.

In a similar way to Code 42's extremely effective CrashPlan 3.0 service (which even lets you set up different back-up sets so you can have different collections of data in position for different destination devices), as you work your data would be uploaded to Apple's servers.

Add TimeMachine to this mix and you have an always available online stored back-up system for your home and other Macs, which enable you to retrieve data easily, wether to return it to a machine following fault or theft, or just to grab that essential file when on the road using an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

The devil is the time it takes to upload this data first time round. But so much of this data isn't unique -- what about your music collection? What if iTunes was able to automatically sift through your music and alert remote iTunes servers as to what you own?

In this vision, not only would you be able to stream this music (if that service ever happens) but iTunes -- and MobileMe -- would maintain a list of the music you own.

iTunes already has most of the music, so you wouldn't need to upload your copy of that music it, just the XML file listing your music. Should disaster strike your local drive(s) you would be able to re-download those songs you own.

This would be great in terms of a streaming music service, but also save untold Gigabytes of uploading of content when setting up your hosted mobile Home.

The dream? I want complete access to my data all the time from anywhere using any device. I want to be able to access, edit, share that data as I wish. I want to be able to use any Apple mobile device to do this, as well as my Mac. I want to be able to use a PC to achieve this if I want -- perhaps even a Google Chrome netbook.

The new future of digital creativity is becoming ever less device-centric, and ever more user-focused.

One more thing, Ping

Ping + MobileMe is not necessarily going to be an improvement. Social networking needs to be two-way. Ping just isn't. That is all.

There's a lot of creative people out there. What do you think Apple could do to make MobileMe completely essential? Let me know in comments below, and please, I'd like to stay in touch so please fee free to follow this blog on Twitter or RSS.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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