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Apple previews version 3.0 of iPhone OS

Focus is on developers, some long-desired user features

By , Network World
March 17, 2009 05:14 PM ET

Network World - Apple Tuesday unveiled a software development kit with more than 1,000 new programming interfaces for iPhone developers, and scores of UI and other changes in version 3.0 of the iPhone operating system.

Among the changes:

* Push notification 

* Synchronizing the iPhone Notes application with Macs or PCs via iTunes

* Automated Wi-Fi login 

* Support for auto discovery of Bluetooth devices, and stereo Bluetooth 

* Cut/copy/paste, including between applications 

* Support for MultiMedia Mmessaging

Still missing in the phone's Safari Web browser is support for the animation and video in Adobe Flash. Apple officials say developers can add video in HTML5, with certain encodings such as H.264, and that HTTP streaming is supported for audio and video. Tuesday's event showcased streaming video via an ESPN iPhone application linked to the sports news Web site.

Also missing is background processing, which would let iPhone users work with one application while one or more are working invisibly in the background; and tethering, which would let a notebook or other device use the iPhone as a modem connection to the Web, for example. Apple executives say tethering is intended for a future release.

While many of the changes are long-desired by iPhone users, the developer-oriented announcements may be more important, as Apple works to nourish and sustain what is clearly a major success story since the iPhone’s launch: the creation of an active, viable combination of tools, APIs, support, and the App Store marketplace that lets developers and buyers of iPhone software find each other.

Apple has been criticized for a range of App Store related problems, including arbitrary selection criteria and long delays for some programs. New business issues for developers are emerging due to the sheer number of applications and users.  

A beta release of the SDK is available now, along with an array of in-depth technical information and online resources, including forums, for programmers. The iPhone 3.0 release is intended to be compatible with existing iPhone applications.

Apple Tuesday said it will support several new models of iPhone software distribution, with an initiative called In-App Purchase. In essence, an iPhone application can be downloaded and additional programs or content can be purchased from it.

In-App Purchase will enable such things as magazine subscriptions, more advanced levels of functionality (for example, new levels added to an iPhone game), and online bookstore content integrated with an ebook. Instead of a one-time application fee, content providers can offer users an ongoing, fee-based service. Seventy percent of the revenue will go to the developer, the remainder to Apple. Free applications remain free, but apparently will not support In-App Purchase.

The 3.0 release will be available this summer, according to Apple, free to all iPhone 3G customers. It will also work on the original edition of iPhone, but the older phone will not support some of the new features, such as MMS or stereo Bluetooth. A software update for the similar but Wi-Fi-only iPod Touch will be available for $9.95.

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