Apple's MobileMe Will Relaunch as Free Service Next Month

It has long been rumored that Apple's MobileMe, a collection of online services and software, would be moved from a subscription-based product ($99 per year) to a free one. At the end of February, Apple discontinued offering MobileMe through its retail stores, sparking a new wave of rumors that the service would be relaunched. Now it looks like those rumors, if a "trusted iLounge source" is to be, well, trusted, are coming true. Next month, MobileMe, which premiered back in January of 2000 as iTools, will relaunch and be free of charge. "The source, who works for a major educational institution, claims the school's supplier has said the current version of MobileMe is no longer available, and that Apple is suggesting new students sign up for the 60-day trial to cover the gap between the final MobileMe shipment and the launch of the new version," iLounge reported.

iLounge's source also noted that Apple plans to support the existing MobileMe for the next year, which implies that the new, reimagined version we see at the end of next month, will be fairly different from what we're used to. But what we're used to hasn't remained static over the past decade; Apple has constantly been adding new features to the MobileMe package.

One of the most recent additions, Find My iPhone, is also one of the most popular and will, I suspect, be that most used when MobileMe is made available to all Apple users. Find My iPhone allows users to visit the same web interface from which they can sync personal data, to see where their lost phone is on a map. Additional features allow users to remotely erase all of their personal data, change their phone's password, play a sound or display a message on the device's screen. Whether your phone has been stolen and you want to track its movement across the city or you just need to play an obnoxious ringtone to help you find where in the apartment you misplaced your most prized possession, this application can help.

Otherwise, most of the services packaged with MobileMe are extensions of existing iLife programs and other Apple utilities. Designed initially for the Max OS X operating system, MobileMe now integrates with various Apple applications on the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. All users have an @me.com e-mail address (early adopters were given @mac.com addresses) and a special web interface that allows them to sync personal data from across various platforms and products. With MobileMe, you can tie together your address books, calendars and more with the push of a button.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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