It's been just over a year since Apple
last held an event touting the latest and greatest version of its
iPhone OS. In March 2009, the big features that Apple brought to the
table with iPhone
OS 3.0 included copy/paste, push notifications,
and push notifications (to make up for the lack of third-party
Today, Apple is back at it again with
OS 4.0. As has been widely speculated for the
quite some time now, Apple is finally enabling third-party
multitasking on the iPhone OS (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad). As the
rumors suggested, double tapping the home button now brings up a
“multitasking dock” which shows up to four programs running at
once (here's a video of multitasking in action). The user then selects the application they want and "boom",
you're there. As you would expect, the current application state is
saved as you're double tapping in and out of apps.
For a demo, Apple's Scott Forstall
showed off an app that has probably been the poster child for the
multitasking movement on the iPhone: Pandora. Previously, if you
wanted to listen to streaming music in Pandora while performing
another task, it wasn't possible (without jailbreaking).
The new multitasking APIs of iPhone OS 4.0 now make what seems like a
no-brainer feature possible. As an added bonus, Pandora can now be
controlled from the lock screen.
Multitasking also now integrates with
background audio and VoIP. As a result, users can now receive Skype
calls without running the program in the foreground and "exiting"
the program will still allow you to receive calls. A locked iPhone
can also receive Skype calls.
IPhone OS 4.0 will bring 100 new
features for the end-user along with 1,500 new APIs for developers.
Some of the more mundane features include iBooks, in-app SMS, home screen
wallpapers (as seen on the iPad), Bluetooth keyboard support (another
iPad donation), and “tap to focus” for video.Another feature that has been asked for is a Folder feature for iPhone OS 4.0. This allows you to group similarly-themed apps together instead of having to sprawl across pages and pages of apps. You can name the folders whatever you want, and place them anywhere including on the dock.
Moving on, another rumor that has been
confirmed is a universal inbox for the Mail app. Mail from multiple
accounts (Gmail, Yahoo!, Exchange, etc.) can now be viewed in a
single unified inbox. Other new features of the Mail app include
multiple Exchange accounts, fast inbox switching, threaded messages,
and the ability to open attachments with their respective apps.
Apple is also looking to court more
business users with better data protection, mobile device management,
Exchange Server 2010 support, and SSL VPN support.
For the gamers out there, Apple is
really trying to bring gaming and social networking together. The new
social gaming network, Game Center, is taking a page from Microsoft's book (re:
Xbox 360) with friend invites, matchmaking, achievements, and
In another move that's new for Apple,
the company is introducing iAd which allows developers to quickly
and efficiently delivers ads to users through apps. Apple will host
and sells the ads -- it will also take a 40 percent cut of the
revenue in return. The ads are completely interactive and
use HTML5 -- Apple is really pushing for the industry to move past
Adobe Flash. Apple's purchase
of Quattro Wireless now makes sense.
IPhone and iPod touch users will get the update this Summer, however, there are a few caveats. IPhone 3GS and 3G iPod touch users will get the full update. IPhone 3G owners and 2G iPod touch users will get a reduced feature set (no multitasking) due to lower hardware specifications. First generation iPhone and iPod touch users are just SOL. IPad users will have to wait until the Fall for the update.
Other items of note today include that
fact that has sold an additional 150,000 iPads since launch day
bringing the total number sold to 450,000. In addition, 600,000
iBooks have been downloaded and over 3.5 million iPad apps (3,500
iPad-specific apps are currently available in the iTunes App Store)
have been downloaded since launch day.
Steve Jobs likes to talk numbers, and
he continued adding that 50 million iPhones have been sold to date,
while 35 million iPod touches have been sold.
With iPhone OS 4.0, Apple is looking to
maintain its lead over Microsoft, Google, and Palm in the smartphone
OS arena, while at the same time nip at the heels of RIM. Considering
that Microsoft chose to go with Apple's "old" approach to
copy/paste and push notifications (instead of true multitasking) with
Phone 7, it should be interesting to see what
Microsoft's response will be now that Apple has charted a new course.
With iPhone OS 4.0, Android, and webOS
now supporting these two basic features that a lot of mobile users
today simply take for granted, Microsoft might have to rethink its
strategy going forward.