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Monday, November 15, 2010

Should MobileMe be free?

What does the future hold for Apple's MobileMe service? Currently Apple charges $99.00 per year for a subscription to MobileMe, which gets you an email address, calendar, contacts, web hosting and 20GB of online storage. Most of these services can be gotten for free from companies like Goggle. I have been experimenting with Google's free Google Apps service, which gives me email, calendar, and contacts as well as other additional services. The big advantage of MobileMe is the seamless integration in Apple products, you can easily sync your email, calendar and contacts with all of your Macs and iDevices over the Internet. I have been able to do the same with Google services, although it was a little more difficult to setup. Also, Apple's web based apps are much more user friendly than their Google counterparts. With all of the free services available today, does it still make sense for Apple to charge for MobileMe?

MobileMe was originally introduced as .Mac, and was included for free with every Macintosh computer. The old service was not as useful as today's MobileMe service, but it was free. I would like to see Apple return to offering at least some of the MobileMe services for free again. Maybe give one year of service for free with the purchase of a Mac or a compatible iOS device. The free service would be limted to email, calendar, contacts, find my iPhone and maybe only 5GB of iDisk space. If you buy a new Apple product every year, the service would continue to be free. Other premium MobileMe services could be offered for an additional fee, such as more iDisk space, online backup of your Mac (Time Machine in the cloud), storage of your music and video library in the cloud that can be streamed to your iDevice, etc... And if Apple ever builds the iLife Home Server, this would tie in perfectly with that as well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thoughts on an Apple server strategy

With the demise of the XServe, I have been thinking more about Apple's future server strategy and here are a few of directions Apple may be considering:

  1. Licensing or Open Sourcing Mac OS X Server
  2. Pushing the Mac Mini Server
  3. Creating an iOS based server

The case for licensing or Open Sourcing Mac OS X Server
Apple may be considering opening up their server OS.  The first indication of this was allowing it to run in a virtual machine and all of the major Mac VM makers are supporting Mac OS X Server as a guest OS, but only on actual Apple hardware.  There are no technical reasons the OS won't run on generic PC hardware in a VM, in fact, I think Oracle's Virtual Box team has done it.  It is simply a licensing issue.  Apple is a product company, though, so I don't really see them licensing the software.  I do think it is possible that they would open source the rest of the Server OS in addition the Darwin core.  That way, Apple would not have to deal with the driver and support issues that go with running the OS on generic hardware.

Pushing the Mac Mini Server
Maybe the Mac Mini Server is cannibalizing sales of the XServe so much that Apple has decided to focus on the Mac Mini Server.  There are places like that run entire data centers of Mac Minis.

Creating an iOS based server
I have posted before on my thoughts about an  iLife Home Server.  What if this box is iOS based running an A4 or future Apple multi-core ARM chip?  This box could be very small and energy efficient, the OS could be installed on an SSD for speed and then use hard drives for data storage.  It would be really cool if the base was the size of a Mac Mini with both SSD and a hard drive in it and some form of "dock" connector on the top that would allow for additional data storage to just be stacked on the top.  The OS would automatically expand the storage volume to add the additional space, when you are running low on space, just add more drives to the stack.  The server would be administered through either a web browser interface or an iOS app installed on any iDevice on the local wi-fi network.

Or, maybe Apple will do all three?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Apple needs to make an ePad.

Remember the eMate? It was Apple's Newton targeted at the K-12 market. I think it is time for Apple to build an iOS device for this market. The touch interface is very intuitive for children to learn, my 4 year old has been using my iPod Touch since she was 2 and has no trouble navigating and finding the apps she likes to run. There are plenty of educational apps available for iOS in the app store that span all age groups from preschoolers up to college students.

Here is what I think Apple needs to make, I call it the ePad. It should be somewhere in size and price between an iPod Touch and an iPad (maybe the rumored 7" iPad). Steve dissed the 7" tablets, saying they were too small. But, remember the target audience for this device would be children and most of his reasons for not liking the 7" form factor may not apply to children, they have smaller fingers and better eye sight. It should also be more rugged than the current iPad and iPhones, it needs to be able to survive a fall and be thrown in a backpack and there would need to be some form of screen protection. It would have built-in WiFi with optional 3G versions that would also have GPS like the iPad. It would have a front facing camera to support Face Time and a rear facing camera as well for taking photos and video. It would come with 16GB of flash storage starting at $399.