Apple’s MobileMe to become MobileFree?

It’s long been hoped for by Mac users: that Apple’s commercial cloud sync platform MobileMe would ditch its $119 annual subscription fee and move to a free model. And now it looks like it could finally be happening with Apple news site reporting that a source familiar with Apple’s plans is claiming MobileMe’s current commercial incarnation is being phased out in favour of a free offering set to be available as soon as April.

MobileMe which began life in 2000 as iTools (and was then dubbed .Mac in 2002 before settling on its current moniker in 2008) is essentially a set of cloud sync and storage options for Mac users and its functionality has been extended to the iPad iPhone iPod touch and even the PC in recent years. MobileMe can keep your email contacts and calendar in sync across multiple devices offers a finder service for lost mobile devices provides photo-sharing gallery resources an online storage hub in iDisk plus a set of web apps.

However the relative simplicity and alternative availability of much of this functionality especially since the advent of popular and easy-to-use free online storage providers like Dropbox had led many in recent times to be critical of MobileMe’s subscription-based fees (and resulting in some devising less-centralised but still practical ways of replicating the same capabilities for no cost).

It’s likely that the rumoured upcoming free version of MobileMe won’t offer the same exact feature set as the current platform as many expect Apple to ultimately take its cloud offering into an iTunes-branded music- and media-streaming direction in an effort to head off rival efforts like Google’s expected cloud music store. Watch this space.