Apple Ships iPhone 2.0, Launching MobileMe

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Yes, people, the iPhone 3G is slated to go on sale in North America in less than 24 hours—Apple fans in other parts of the world are already setting hands on the devices—and Apple is gearing up for the launch, releasing its iPhone 2.0 update for existing iPhone owners and ramping up its MobileMe suite of Internet services for one-the-go users.

The iPhone 2.0 software enables a host of new features for iPhone and iPod touch owners, incuding parental controls, support for the full suite of Microsoft Office documents (as well as Apple’s own iWork suite), and improvements to the iPhone Mail application. Of course, the headline features of the new release are the new App Store and extended enterprise support, including push email, VPN support, compatibility with Exchange-based messaging systems, two-factor authentication, and features that enable IT departments to deploy and manage iPhones.

The App Store—available through iTunes 7.7, also released today, enables users to browse more than 500 applications for the iPhone, including more than 100 free applications. The most common prices for other applications are apparently $0.99 and $9.99, and include things like AOL Instant Messenger, TypePad, Google Mobile, and an iPhone version of the Twitterific microblogging client.

Apple is billing MobileMe as “Exchange for the rest of us,” and replaces Apple’s increasingly haggard .Mac suite of services. MobileMe aims to bring “cloud computing” to everyday people, including Mail, Contacts, and Calendar applications that are immediately synced between desktop and mobile services and can be accessed via suite of online applications via a Web browser (but not, remarkably, using Internet Explorer 6). Apple is pitching MobileMe not just to the Macintosh faithful, but also to Windows users who might have hopped on the iPhone or iPod bandwagon and are looking for a suite of top-notch, ad-free services. But ad-free doesn’t mean “free:” MobileMe is a subscription service running $99 a year for 20 GB of storage; family packs will run $149. MobileMe has been sporadically operating so far, and is due to officially launch July 11.

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