More Detail On Apple’s Plans For MobileMe: Think FaceBook, Foursquare & uStream [Exclusive]



Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple is working on a “major revamp” of MobileMe, including a “locker” that will stream movies and TV shows to iPhones and iPads.

We’ve learned that Apple is going far beyond this. The company is looking to add a ton of ambitious cloud computing features to MobileMe — possibly in anticipation of a streaming-only iPhone.

Among the many services Apple is working on are:

  • A live video-streaming service like Ustream
  • A location-based check-in system like Gowalla or Foursquare
  • A geo-tagging system codenamed “Tokens” that tags real-world locations, like Facebook Places on steroids.

According to our source, who asked to remain anonymous, Apple is working on a lot of streaming data services and location-aware technologies. It’s not clear when or how these features will be rolled out, but they appear to complement our report that Apple is working on a streaming-only iPhone.

“A ton of ideas were hatched on what they could do, and from what I heard, a lot of their ideas were shelved for a later date in order to focus on a few of them,” said our source.

According to our source, the centerpiece of the new MobileMe services is a dynamic webpage that sounds like a mashup of Facebook, Foursquare and Ustream.

The webpage will collect a ton of information that is automatically uploaded from an iOS device, including the user’s location, photos they’ve taken and video they’ve shot.

It will also detail music they’re listening to, games they’re playing, applications they’re using, music and apps they’ve purchased, web sites they’ve visited, status updates, and so on. Users can even send live video to their page, much like the live video-streaming service Ustream.

“The concept is that you would have you own website that’s dynamic, all based on what you are doing at that moment,” said our source. “Apple thinks of it as having a webserver in your pocket… everything will be dynamically updated to MobileMe.”

The information on the MobileMe page is updated one of two ways: The user can decide what to send, or information is retrieved whenever someone visits their page on MobileMe.

For example, when a visitor goes to a user’s page, MobileMe will ping their iOS device for updates, much like how Apple’s Find My iPhone pings for a location when it’s activated.

“Apple wanted to take that idea and provide more information,” said our source.

Apple will offer comprehensive privacy controls, our source said. Users can limit how much or how little information is shared. They can choose what information to share publicly (if any) and what information they want to share with members of their iGroup. (iGroups is Apple’s patented social location app that tracks you and your friends).

Users can make their location publicly available or see who else is near them with an iPhone. They can visit friends’ MobileMe pages to see what they’re doing. Notifications can alert a user when another member of their iGroup is within a specified range — 5 miles, 10 miles, or 50 miles.


Our source said Apple is also working on a geo-tagging service called “Tokens” that sounds like a mashup of Facebook Places, iWant and Twinkle — with several advanced features.

Tokens (the name is temporary) allows users to tag GPS locations with information, tips and interesting photos. Users can see what tokens others have left behind. The information could be restaurant reviews, meal recommendations, special deals offered by retailers, or photos of events that took place there. However, the system is complex and Apple is having trouble getting it to work properly, our source said. (And yeah, Apple can’t seem to make the simple version of MobileMe work properly now – but that’s another story).

As we reported earlier this week, Apple is developing a slimmed-down iPhone with limited local storage. Movies and TV shows will be streamed to the device, like the second-generation Apple TV.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Apple is beefing up MobileMe, adding a “locker” that will stream media to mobile devices.

Our source didn’t connect the new MobileMe services with a streaming-only iPhone, but they sound like the perfect complement to each other. Media would be streamed from the user’s MobileMe locker, while their photos and video would be instantly uploaded to the cloud instead of stored locally on the device.

Of course, Apple could be working on a major revamp of MobileMe — something that’s been rumored for a long time — and it could have nothing to do with streaming-only iPhones.

Either way, Apple’s plans look really ambitious: every location-based service you can think of mashed up into one — and built into iOS.

This would have to make Foursquare, Gowolla, and the like a bit nervous.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.