Apple has certainly been on a streak lately. The public release of the iPad has been a complete success and now the details of the much anticipated iPhone OS 4.0. The new operating system has been the main object of speculation and rumor since the unveiling of the Apple tablet in January. Today’s announcement finally threw back the curtain and gave us all a vision of the future of the iPhone and iPad platforms. While the tech media machine discerned and speculated most of the features beforehand, there were still a few surprises no one saw coming.
Let’s review the seven main features of the announcement:
This was the big feature everyone has been waiting for. While it remains to be seen whether this is true multitasking in the sense that the application runs in the background or is preserved in some kind of frozen state, this feature should enhance the iPhone experience greatly. What we do know is multitasking will support audio, VoIP, location and navigation applications running in the background. In addition to this multitasking will include enhanced push notifications, local notifications, task completion, and fast app switching.
One of the main complaints about the iPhone user interface is the endless succession of home screens full of icons. The Folders feature allows a user to create a pile of icons that appear as a folder on their home screen. Tapping the folder provides access to all of the apps in the folder.
- Enhanced mail
iPhone OS 4.0 will enhance the native Mail app in several significant ways. The most significant is a unified inbox. All of a user’s e-mail can now be delivered to one location. On the e-mail side, messages can now be organized by thread and attachments opened with an external app identified for that purpose or file extension.
- iBooks for iPhone
Apple will bring the iBooks application to the iPhone.
iPhone OS 4.0 will bring a number of enhancements relevant to Enterprise users. They include increased data protection, mobile device management, wireless app distribution, multiple Exchange accounts, Exchange Server 2010 support and SSL VPN support.
This was an enhancement no one saw coming. GameCenter provides an Xbox Live type interface for iPhone gaming. It integrates social gaming, friend invites, matchmaking, leaderboards and achievements. It will be interesting to see how developers use this enhancement and how much it cuts into the business of applications like OpenFeint.
iAd is Apple’s entry into mobile advertising. While this may seem like a rather mundane enhancement, iAd will feature rich, in-app interactive and video advertisements. The advertisements demoed at the presentation seemed more like applications than static ads. Apple will sell and host the ads and split revenue 60/40 in favor of developers.
Multitasking was easily the most exciting and interesting announcement. The single criticism most used against the operating system is now gone and if Apple is prepared to release it, you know it has been tested and works extremely well. It may not be the full, preemptive multitasking users are familiar with from a desktop computer paradigm but I think it will be enough to make users happy without running into the problems encountered on mobile platforms like Android.
The move to version 4.0 seems like more of a major upgrade than the move to version 3.0 a year ago. I think this has a lot to do with the fact the iPhone OS now supports a major device in the iPad. I think it’s also indicative of Apple’s vision for the future, a vision where the iPhone OS and its ancestors are the future of Apple computing. Sure, Mac OS will always exist as a full operating system, but as Apple shifts focus from computers to consumer electronics the iPhone OS represents the lightweight operating system required to make such a change. Version 4.0 will be available in the summer for the iPhone and iPod Touch and in the fall for the iPad. The iPad, iPhone 3GS, and 3rd generation Touch will be able to run all of the new features. The iPhone 3G and 2nd generation Touch will run most features but notably multitasking will not be available. No word on pricing as of yet.
What are your thoughts on today’s announcements? Did Apple fill some of the major gaps in the iPhone OS? Would you be compelled to buy a product that runs the new operating system? Are you encouraged by Apple’s vision of the future based on the new OS? Leave us a comment and let us know.
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