Apple showed off the third version of its iPhone operating system today, introducing features long-desired by fans: cut and paste, multimedia messaging, push email notification, landscape mode text entry and turn-by-turn GPS navigation.
The cut-and-paste announcement, which reportedly drew cheers, works across applications and includes undo support. Accompanying it are new programming hook-ins for application developers.
Multimedia messaging means that iPhone users will no longer have to visit a crappy AT&T web page to view pictures sent from many other cellphones.
The imminent release of Palm's Pre cellphone, hailed as the first device to challenge Apple's on its own technological turf, brought the iPhone's shortcomings into sharp relief. The updates, some hankered for since the gadget's original 2007 launch, seek to address this issue.
iPhone OS 3 will be available in the summer as a free update to iPhone customers and to iPod Touch users for $10. Owners of the original iPhone won't get MMS or stereo bluetooth.
Users didn't get everything they wanted.
The frequently-expressed hope that Apple would permit programs to run in the background will remain just that. Battery life and performance constraints were cited as reasons.
Adobe's Flash technology, which could allow better web-based apps and games outside of the official App Store, is still not in. AT&T will not yet offer a tethering plan, though Apple itself supports it.
Nor was the fabled Apple Tablet PC or netbook announced, despite a spasm of 11th hour rumors.
Scott Forstall, Apple's SVP of iPhone software, also introduced:
• Peer-to-peer linkups between individual iPhones -- great for gaming, collaborative work and sharing business cards or other files.
• The ability for developers to create custom applications that communicate directly with specialist hardware, even using bluetooth or custom protocols. Examples given included an FM transmitter with advanced controls, and a a remote blood pressure monitor.
• Google Maps as a public API, meaning that developers can embed them in programs.
• Server-side email search using IMAP, and more search options throughout the system.
Forstall also said that there would also be general enhancements to the App Store. Magazine subscriptions, expansions for games and eBooks will all gain special channels in the system. Developers will also be allowed to sell such items from inside their own applications.
Greg Joswiak, Apple's VP of hardware marketing, told gathered writers and reporters that the iPhone sold 13.7 million units worldwide in 2008. In total, there are now 30 million iPhones and iPod touches sold, creating a vast market for software sold at the App Store.
Also at the event:
• JD Power ranked the iPhone #1 for customer satisfaction, according to Forstall.
• EA announced Sims 3 for iPhone, while Ngcomo announced a Nintendogs-like pet game and a multiplayer first-person shooter that works over the 'net.
• Web-based instant messaging service Meebo demoed its new iPhone client, made possible by the push notification service.
• Oracle's Hody Crouch introduced a selection of fascinating business applications.
(Headline suggested by Pete Mortensen)