Apple Upgrades .Mac and Backup in France, Germany

New "Groups" feature enables creation of group e-mails and shared storage, while Backup service now allows incremental data transfers.

PARIS—Apple Computer Inc. upgraded its .Mac and Backup service on Monday, adding enhanced local support for the French and German markets.

Apple added a .Mac "Groups" feature that allows like-minded individuals to share content and interests. The company also announced Backup 3.0, which allows subscribers to the .Mac service to incrementally back up their files to up to a gigabyte per individual, as well as iTunes music and other content.

Apple representatives described the new "Groups" feature as a natural extension to its iLife mantra, allowing friends and family to communicate. The announcement was the only official release from Apple at the Apple Expo here, The company canceled a previously scheduled keynote from chief executive Steve Jobs.

Users can create a "group" with unlimited members, according to an Apple spokesman, allowing them to send a single e-mail to all of its members, post files, pictures and movies, as well as share a calendar and post a jointly published Web page. Each group will be allowed 100MB of shared storage, according to an Apple support technician who asked not to be named.

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The new version of Backup, meanwhile, was designed to free users from the lengthy backups that can monopolize a connection. Although the initial backup to the .Mac service requires the entire volume, folder or folders to be archived, follow-on updates can be configured to simply archive new or altered files. Conversely, if a user wants to find a file that he modified six months ago, he can, the support technician said.

Apple increased the amount of storage per individual to a full gigabyte, divided between iDisk storage space and the users mail account. Members of the .Mac family pack now receive 2GB and can purchase an additional gigabyte for 34.99 pounds sterling, including the European Value Added Tax (VAT) on an annual basis.

The new .Mac versions will be released both in French and German, in addition to the Japanese- and English-language versions that the company already supports. The .Mac service is available for 68.99 pounds including VAT for individuals as well as 119.99 pounds for a family pack, which includes a master account and five sub accounts. A free 60-day trial is also available.

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