Apple has previewed its new operating system for the iPhone, version 4.0 at an event in Cupertino.
The new OS, which will be available this summer, presumably at the same time as new hardware, will add a number of new features to the phone including multitasking.
“We weren’t the first to this party, but we’re going to be the best. Like cut and paste - it’s better than any other implementation. It’s really easy to implement it in a way that really drains battery life. And, it’s really easy to implement it in a way that reduces the performance of the foreground app and makes your phone feel sluggish", said Steve Jobs to a crowded room of US journalists.
The new iPhone OS 4.0 delivers over 1500 new APIs for developers, including the ability to access the calendar, photo library, full map overlays, in-app SMS and iPod remote control accessories.
Furthermore developers will be able to add features like the ability to gift apps, create playlists, change the homescreen wallpaper, add Bluetooth keyboards, spell check, offer a 5x digital zoom to the camera and offer persistent Wi-Fi.
In what Jobs claims were 7 "tentpole" features, the phone operating system will get a complete overhaul as it works to stay on top against heavy competition from Microsoft, as well as Google with its Android platform.
However Jobs has confirmed that some of the updates won't be available to all models on the market.
While the OS will be available for the iPhone 3GS, and iPod touch 3G will get multitasking, the feature won't be available for the iPhone 3G and earlier iPod touch models.
"They will not support multitasking, the hardware just can’t do it”, said Jobs.
The new multitasking feature will see a dock appear from the bottom of the phone after pressing the home screen when you want to switch to another app, in an interface that is reminiscent of adding widgets to the Dashboard feature in Mac OS X.
However, it's not an open range for developers to go wild, Apple has said that it will only offer seven types of multitasking, like audio, location, and notifications, which it believes will be enough to give users what they want.
The Seven types will be:
Background audio - Allows your app to play audio continuously. So customers can listen to apps while they surf the web, play games, and more.
Voice over iP - Users will be able to receive VoIP calls and have conversations while using another app. Your users can even receive calls when their phones are locked in their pocket.
Background location - Navigation apps can now continue to guide users who are listening to their iPods, or using other apps. iPhone OS 4 also provides a new and battery efficient way to monitor location when users move between cell towers.
Push notifications - Receive alerts from apps even when an app isn't running.
Local notifications - Apps can now alert users of scheduled events and alarms in the background, no servers required.
Task finishing - If an app is in mid-task when your customer leaves it, the app can now keep running to finish the task.
Fast app switching - Allow users to leave an app and come right back to where they were when they left - no more having to reload the app.
Apple demoed the new feature with a number of third party applications including Skype, US music service Pandora, and GPS apps like TomTom.
The second major new feature will be Folders, that allow you to put apps into specific folders so you don't lose track of all the apps that you have.
For heavy users intrigued to know, the system will support up to 180 folders, that are auto named by Apple by using an intelligent system which is implemented after you drag and drop the apps you want into the relevant box.
The third major feature will be Mail that sees a unified inbox allowing users to stream multiple accounts into the mail app without having to run multiple folder logins. In a move to appeal to the business users, Apple has now made it possible to have more than one Exchange account on the device. Taking a leaf out of Google's Gmail, users will also be able to thread messages.
"We’re adding iBooks", said Jobs at the event. Following the successful US launch on the iPad store, iPhone and iPod touch customers will be able to get their ebook fix on the iPhone. Users will be able to buy their books from either store and access them wherever they are, however it is not certain as to whether Apple will be launching a desktop app similar to Amazon's Kindle offering. Book pages and bookmarks will be synced.
The fifth "tentpole" allows enterprise to distribute apps to its employees as well as adding SSL VPN support. Exciting.
Boasting iPhone's 50,000 gaming titles and slamming Sony and Nintendo at the same time, Apple is adding a social gaming network. It will work to match you with players of similar abilities so you can play online as well as giving you in-game achievements like Microsoft is planning on doing with Windows Phone 7 and its Xbox Live service.
As rumoured Apple used the event to launch a mobile advertising platform as it hopes to garner in advertising revenue from apps and stop Google's AdMob platform getting too ahead of the game after a failed attempt to buy the company themselves. Boasting the possibility of serving app users an advert every 3 minutes Apple is claiming it has the ability to serve 1 billion ad impressions a day across its new iAd network.
The ads, which will actually break App usage and run within the OS, will be by-passable says Jobs, with Apple taking 40% of the revenue generated and 60% going to the developer with Apple selling and hosting the adverts. Apps will include video, games and other gems to get you involved.
When and what?
The new operating system will be available to all iPhone users at some point, read June or July, this summer. The iPod touch 1st gen, iPod touch 2nd gen and iPhone 3G models will not get multitasking functionality.