The long rumoured update to Apple's criticised online .Mac services may be announced at the forthcoming worldwide developers conference to be held in San Francisco next week, reports suggest.

As well as strings in the latest version of Apple's operating system suggesting changes are on their way, it seems some domain name registrations linked to Apple mean a re-branding as well as a revamp of the services offered could be incoming.

A code "enthusiast" found evidence in OS X 10.5.3 that shows almost everywhere ".Mac" has been replaced with "%@" which means that the name of Apple's online service could easily be inserted programmatically by applications, pointing to a name change.

The two possible names to replace .Mac (pronounced dot Mac) are Me.com and MobileMe.com, which could be an either/or situation, or an iPhone-friendly offering from the mobile side of things.

Me.com has been linked back to Apple via some clever online investigative work, while MobileMe.com is registered by Apple as a trademark as linked to "telecommunication services; electronic transmission and retrieval of data, images, audio, video and documents".

As always, it's speculation and rumour at this stage, but a much overdue update to the .Mac offering is looking more and more likely for next week's big event. We'll keep you informed.