One thing that hasn’t been talked about in connection with the (presumed) launch of Apple’s tablet on Wednesday is how MobileMe fits into the picture. There’s a good reason for this: MobileMe is one of Apple’s “forgotten products”. Used by many, but rarely talked about, mainly because it has been upgraded only slowly and has never really had any groundbreaking, compelling features.
In comparison to the cloud-based services of Google and others, it often feels like something of an also-ran. I’m hoping that Apple will do some fun things with MobileMe on Wednesday, tying it deeply into how the product works. However, even if MobileMe isn’t a core part of what the tablet is it deserves an upgrade. So here’s my five suggestions of ways that Apple could turn MobileMe from an also-ran to an essential.
1. Turn iDisk into a real file sync engine, with cloud-based Home folder
With more and more of us owning multiple computers, and more devices like the iPhone capable of using files, keeping all of your documents in sync is becoming incredibly important. MobileMe has a sync engine, in the shape of iDisk. Only one problem: it’s slow, and works only with Macs. Compared to services like DropBox (which I also use) and SugarSync it feels like a product straight out of the dark ages.
2. Beef up the web email client
MobileMe email really only comes into its own when you use it with a desktop client, and in particular Apple Mail. If have to use the web client, you’re going to feel like you’re using free Yahoo! email circa 1998. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just… basic. Server-side filtering? Not a chance. Server-side spam handling? Nope. Threading of conversations? Integration of IM? Forget it. Unless you really want to avoid your email, it’s just not good enough.
3. Make “personal domains” more powerful
Personal domains are a simple idea for making better use of the lovely little sites you create with iWeb. Essentially, you can set up your MobileMe web space so it appears to be at a proper personal domain, such as ianbetteridge.com. Only one problem: Unlike equivalent services from Google and many others, it ONLY works with web sites. If you want your email from (say) [email protected] to automatically go to your MobileMe address and – importantly – the replies to come from that email address too, you’re out of luck.
4. Music, videos and apps everywhere
Apple has already started to take steps towards allowing you to have all your bought music and videos available everywhere. Since the last version of iTunes, you could set things up so that libraries connected with the same Apple account shared content automatically – a great help if, like me, you have multiple Macs. But the next step is to take this further: make any music, video or app I buy that’s associated with a MobileMe account available on every Mac, PC and iPhone that’s attached to that account, via a web page or (if they must) through iTunes. I should be able to stream any track that iTunes knows I’ve bought, even if it’s not in the library of the machine I’m using. For machines with limited storage – like a tablet – this would be a great option.
5. Bring Galleries into the 21st Century
I’m one of the few people who seems to like putting my photos up on MobileMe’s galleries. I like its simplicity and its clean interface. What I don’t like about it is that it lacks “discoverability”. Unless I tell people where my galleries are, they’re very hard to find. Why? Aren’t Mac users social people?
None of these things are rocket science for a company like Apple, but all of them would immeasureably improve MobileMe. At the moment, even for Mac users, I have great difficulty in recommending MobileMe as an essential purchase – change these five things, and it would be a lot easier.
(Photo by Dekuwa – http://flic.kr/p/4UH8s7)