Apple’s MobileMe is variously reviled and applauded in different corners of the Net, but it’s hard to argue that it provides a pretty comprehensive service. So comprehensive that Best Buy has just cloned it–and made it available for free.
The service is called mIQ and it supports BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian S60 phones–basically a huge haul of devices from the latest BlackBerrys to Nokia’s flagship N97. But for now, it won’t support the iPhone. That’s not too surprising since it’s essentially a copy of Apple’s service: 1GB of cloud storage for you contacts, photos, videos, calendars, SMS chats, and so on–all synced from the phone to the mIQ cloud service and back. It does have a few extras compared to MobileMe though–you can read and respond to SMS messages from a Web portal to your account, and you can share photos and videos to other sites like Facebook, Twitter, and so on.
The service’s biggest draw is the fact that it’s free. Any of the supported devices sold through Best Buy from October 12 will come with the service pre-enabled. You don’t have to be a Best Buy customer to use it, though–anyone can via the Web site.
Seeing as Apple charges $99 for its MobileMe service each year, and there are competitor systems that offer more functionality than mIQ from Nokia and Microsoft (Ovi and My Phone, respectively–with MS’s offer being very strong indeed), what the heck is Best Buy up to with this? Is it a similar situation to the wholesale jumping-on-the-app-store-bandwagon we’re seeing elsewhere in the smartphone market? Is it a vendor desperately trying to leverage off the currently ultra-trendy cloud services game? Or is it simply that Best Buy hopes the continual drip-drip appearance of its name through the service will enamor you to the chain, driving you to buy more purchases from its stores? It’s probably a subtle mix of all of this, as well as an opportunity for Best Buy to push more adverts at you. But still–it’s free, and that’s not to be sniffed at.