apple mobile me going free?More evidence is surfacing that Apple intends to dramatically change the MobileMe offering, announcing the change at their iPad2 event next week on the 2nd March.

The MobileMe paid service offering an Exchange like synchronisation of email, calendar and contacts along with photos and cloud storage is rumoured to be made available for free alongside the announcement of the new iPad2 next week.

MobileMe, part of an industry wave known as cloud computing, also could become a focal point for a new online music service that Apple has been developing for more than a year, the people said. Social networking would be another key component, one of the people said.

Yesterday Apple insider reported that Apple “removed the $99 MobileMe product from its online store and notified resellers that it has discontinued the retail box for its cloud-based syncing product, suggesting the company is prepared to launch a rumored overhaul of the service.” This ties in with speculation that Apple will be addressing its online services by making MobileMe more competitive and bringing an online element to the iTunes product, either in cloud based management or possibly adding a live streaming element.

In an unusual pre-event news-bite, Apple told shareholders at its annual meeting today that its massive new data center in North Carolina is for iTunes and MobileMe (along with Apple’s “corporate systems”), and that it is set to open sometime this spring.