Apple Likes Me

You like me, Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) ! You really, really like me!

OK, not just me. You're also hoping my several million friends will sign up for your new MobileMe service, which CEO Steve Jobs unveiled at yesterday's Worldwide Developer Conference. (Along with long-anticipated 3G iPhones.)

Or maybe we should call it .Mac 2.0, a digital service that a portion of Mac addicts have used for years to back up data from their desktops. MobileMe extends the idea to the iPhone and -- more importantly -- Windows PCs.

Apple, for its part, calls MobileMe "Exchange for the rest of us."

Oooooohhhh, look at that big wooden horse!
Investors don't seem to care. Shares of Apple fell more than 2% at yesterday's close. I don't get it. The Mac's daddy announced:

  • A $199 entry-level iPhone. ($299 for a 16-gigabyte version.)
  • Exchange support, to give business users access to corporate data a la Research In Motion's (Nasdaq: RIMM  ) BlackBerry.
  • A new App Store that allows users to download many new applications wirelessly.

Maybe there's a latent outrage over yet another iPhone price cut. That'd make sense. "Get more, pay less" -- it all sounds so Ron Popeil.

So be it. We know Jobs isn't selling Ginsu knives. Instead, he's in a knife fight for mobile market share against RIM, Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) , Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) , and everyone else who sells a Windows Mobile phone. Price cuts will aid in Jobs' effort.

Consider history. Apple ascended to the top of the digital music market by keeping tracks to $0.99 each when competitors and the recording industry were screaming for more. And while the iPod mini was pricey at first, subsequent cuts and a recalibration of the line mean that today's teens can get an iPod shuffle for as little as $49.

Meanwhile, back at iPhone headquarters
My guess is that MobileMe will prove to be more meaningful than price cuts in Apple's tussle with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) for mobile platform supremacy.

Why? We know two things about smartphone buyers:

  1. They view their devices as tools, rather than phones.
  2. The decision to buy isn't always their own.

The first is obvious. The second has to do with IT managers, those folks who manage budgets at companies large and small, and who really loathe adding complexity into a network of devices. Smartphones add complexity.

Except when they don't. MobileMe isn't based on a server; it will operate via the Web. As a result, it should play just as well with PCs as Macs. Mail, photos, calendar -- all the data you use to organize your work will be stored via the Web and distributed to your devices as you go online.

Call it efficiency without the price of infrastructure.

Even so, MobileMe isn't likely to disrupt Exchange. IT managers who've committed to Microsoft will very likely stick with Mr. Softy. Apple recognizes this; the new iPhone software will provide built-in support for Exchange.

Yet MobileMe could prove just as crucial. As an online service, it'll remove the need for compliant software on user devices (iPhone, iMac, Dell Dimension, etc.), thereby defanging complaints that Macs aren't built for the enterprise.

Or, in simpler terms: Have Exchange? Great! Here's a Mac and iPhone. Have fun.

I realize that I'm making synchronicity between the very different worlds of Mac and PC -- so emphasized in Apple's zinger-laden TV ads -- sound simpler than it really is. My apologies. The point isn't that Apple just created a silver bullet with MobileMe. Instead, it's found a way to extend the halo effect that has juiced Mac sales in recent quarters.

Nothing is more important to the iEmpire than that. Not even a 3G iPhone.

Apple is a Stock Advisor selection. Microsoft is an Inside Value pick. From wallflowerish small caps to swashbuckling Rule Breakers, we've got something for every investor. Get in on the action today with a 30-day risk-free trial to any of our market-beating newsletters.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers also writes for Rule Breakers. He owned shares of Nokia at the time of publication. See Tim's  portfolio and his latest blog commentary. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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