Apple unveils iPhone OS 3.0

Wed, 03/18/2009 - 8:15am
Monica Alleven, Wireless Week

In case you didn’t notice, Apple previewed its iPhone OS 3.0 software yesterday, revealing a bevy of new features for the iPhone.

More than 100 new features will be available to iPhone and iPod Touch users this summer, including cut, copy and paste; MMS; landscape view for mail, text and notes; stereo Bluetooth; syncing notes to the Mac and PC; and parental controls for TV shows.

The iPhone OS 3.0 beta release also will include a new voice memo app and expanded search for all key iPhone apps. 

The iPhone OS 3.0 beta software and software development kit (SDK) include more than 1,000 new application programming interfaces (APIs), and they are available now for all iPhone Developer Program members to use for development and testing of their apps for the iPhone and iPod touch.

“The new iPhone OS does provide some insight into the next hardware revision, and the incremental nature of the software upgrade indicates that the next planned version of the iPhone will also be an incremental upgrade to the current model, with no radical changes to the device’s capabilities,” said Tim Renowden, an analyst with consulting firm Ovum, in a research note.

Apple has focused its marketing and advertising on applications in an effort to position the iPhone and iPod Touch as the best mobile platform for apps and games. So it’s no surprise that the iPhone OS 3.0 has several improvements for developers, demonstrating the extent to which Apple’s iPhone strategy is driven by the applications market.

“The new SDK and developer tools are aimed squarely at attracting as many developers as possible, preferably away from other platforms,” Renowden says. “The new SDK gives developers access to 1,000 new APIs, which Apple claims will give applications better access to the iPhone hardware, ultimately improving the quality and variety of applications on the platform.”

For example, developers will be able to write applications that communicate with the phone’s hardware and embed Google Maps in applications.

For consumers, the upgrade will provide an improved user experience, thanks to features like push technology. Users will also be able to search across multiple applications, thanks to the addition of Spotlight, which functions across proprietary iPhone applications. New peer-to-peer (P2P) connectivity will scan for iPhones in the area; the feature is a boon for gamers, allowing them to play against each other on separate handsets.

Apple shares rose $4.24 – or 4.4 percent – yesterday, closing at $99.66.

While many iPhone fans welcomed the updates, some rivals in the smartphone OS space were less impressed. Microsoft has had features such as copy and paste and MMS in its platform for years, according to Greg Sullivan, senior product manager at Microsoft. In some ways, Apple is just catching up. “We feel real good about our continued investment in the platform,” he says.

Microsoft continues to evolve its platform, with its 6.5 Windows Mobile release coming this fall. But it hasn’t offered an apps store on par with Apple’s; that’s coming, however.

Microsoft has worked with third-party apps for years, but it will be integrating the Windows Marketplace into the phone itself so that customers have an easy-to-find link or portal from the device, Sullivan says.

– Wireless Week’s Maisie Ramsay contributed to this report

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