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Why Apple Needs to Set Its MobileMe Service Free

Apple (APPL) is apparently wrapping up talks with the major music companies to let customers buy music once and simultaneously download it to their iPad, iPod, or iPhone wirelessly. The whole deal sounds very similar to Apple's popular MobileMe service, which allows subscribers to remotely access their documents a la Dropbox and Box.net.

In fact, chances are strong that Apple will fold this new music initiative into MobileMe and make the $99 a year MobileMe service free to entice customers to both the iPad 2 and the next iPod Nano. Here's why.

Bring businesses to the iPad 2
The iPad 2 doesn't give users any way to store their songs and other data on removable SD cards or USB memory sticks, something many companies still use. I called it a flaw, resulting in some great feedback on Twitter and elsewhere. Tech entrepreneur Peter Berg, for instance, argued that Fortune 500 companies are going aggressively into the cloud and that the lack of removable media wasn't going to be an issue for the new iPad.

I still think the lack of USB support is an iPad 2 flaw, but a free version of MobileMe could be the push companies need to get in the cloud and, perhaps, support the iPad. Dropbox and Box.net are both great (and well-performing) third-party cloud services, but having a free cloud service from Apple would help "validate" the notion of remote data storage for companies.

The memory-small Nano
The next iPod Nano is expected to have a relatively tiny onboard memory, which means it'll store a lot less music than before. It will need some type of cloud-based music system to compensate for the lack of memory. Here's how it could work:

  • Buy a song on the iPod Nano
  • Choose to download it on your actual Nano or keep it in the virtual vault
  • Download it to your other iPod, iPad, iPhone, or home iTunes when desired
Apple will simply be applying the MobileMe concept to music. If it actually makes the music backup part of MobileMe, it can encourage more customers to sign up -- and to stay within Apple's walled garden. The online backup will also make users happy since iTunes currently doesn't let people re-download their purchased music -- much to the chagrin of people who've survived hard-disk crashes and other tech accidents.

Photo courtesy of aditza121 // CC 2.0
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