Government // Mobile & Wireless
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6/18/2010
02:57 PM
Jake Widman
Jake Widman
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Apple Revamps MobileMe Cloud Service

The webmail/sync/online storage/file sharing service gets some new features, including push webmail, and a new interface. And Find My iPhone gets an app version.

The webmail/sync/online storage/file sharing service gets some new features, including push webmail, and a new interface. And Find My iPhone gets an app version.Apple's MobileMe, a collection of cloud services designed to support Macs and other Apple devices, has been given a makeover that makes it look and in some ways behave more like an iPhone app than a Mac program. For one thing, the row of icons for the different functions -- e-mail, contacts, calendar, image gallery, iDisk online storage, and the Find My iPhone app for tracking a missing iPhone or iPad -- has been replaced by a single cloud icon. Click on that, and a row of large icons appears in a band across the middle of the browser window, reminiscent of the way different apps are presented on the iPhone.

The webmail service has received the greatest attention in the update. You now get a choice of three views: widescreen, with your mailboxes on the left; compact, with the mailboxes hidden; and classic, the three-pane view familiar from most e-mail clients.

More important are the functional advancements. MobileMe now supports mail rules and folders, so you can automatically sort incoming mail according to various criteria. My attempts to access that function this morning were met with server errors, though, so I can't say if there's a way to sync rules you might already have in Apple's Mail client with MobileMe rules. Besides sorting with rules, there's also an Archive command, with which you can file away any message with one click to an Archive folder where, Apple says, "it's always available for future reference."

The other major new feature is "push" e-mail. If you have the webmail window open, e-mail you receive will show up in your Inbox as soon as it arrives -- you don't have to "Get Mail" or refresh the list. This is another way that the Web-based mail mimics the way it works on the iPhone.

Speaking of which: one of the handy features of MobileMe has been Find My iPhone. Once an iPhone was set up to work with ite, Find My iPhone let you use MobileMe to locate a lost or stolen iPhone, display its whereabouts on a map, send it a message, or, if need be, wipe it of data. That functionality is now in a free iPhone/iPad app, enabling you to find one lost device from another one (handy, since you're probably out looking for it anyway). The only catch is that you still need a MobileMe account to use the app.

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These enhancements aren't really enough to turn MobileMe into an enterprise-class cloud service. But like the existing ability to sync calendars and contacts and push e-mail, they're functions that will be useful and easy to set up for a Mac-based business that doesn't already have an alternative. Like most Apple products, they're not necessarily designed for business, but that doesn't mean they're not useful to businesses.

MobileMe costs $99/year for an individual subscription, $149/year for a Family Pack, with a 60-day free trial.

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