Apple's iPhone 3.0 A Win For Consumers - InformationWeek

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3/18/2009
10:51 AM
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Apple's iPhone 3.0 A Win For Consumers

The update will likely improve the iPhone and iPod Touch as a gaming machine, social networking tool, business tool, and browser, and lays the groundwork for future hardware.

The iPhone 3.0 software, which the company released in beta on Tuesday, is a win for users and Apple, cementing Apple's market lead with advanced new features while also adding a couple of capabilities that competitive devices have had for years.

"The new capabilities make it better as a game machine, as a social networking tool, better as a business tool, and better as a browser," said Technology Business Research analyst Ezra Gottheil. "This can only help Apple."

The software is available to developers now in beta and in a developer kit, and it will be available to consumers this summer, a year after Apple shipped the iPhone 2.0 software and iPhone 3G hardware. Apple didn't talk about any new hardware at Tuesday's event, but might well do so at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in June, which is where it introduced the iPhone 3G last year. The software will be a free upgrade to existing iPhone users, and $9.95 to existing iPod Touch owners.

Major new features on the iPhone 3.0 software include copy, cut, and paste support; peer-to-peer connections between devices for gaming and sharing business information. The software has an interface for the iPhone to control external hardware; Apple demonstrated its use controlling medical equipment on Tuesday. The device has an API for developers to build Google Maps into their applications, so we can finally get turn-by-turn out-loud directions on the iPhone. And it supports push notifications, to achieve most of the benefits of running applications in the background; multimedia messaging; and a Spotlight search application that runs across multiple applications.

Also, users will be able to type in landscape mode in Mail, Text, and Notes applications -- another feature much in demand by iPhone users.

"It's a huge release for Apple," said Gartner analyst Van Baker. The ability to sell content from within applications will be a significant win for developers, who will be able to generate applications that depend on a subscription model, including city guides and e-book readers, Baker said. For example, the Amazon Kindle application for iPhone has a much clumsier shopping experience than on the dedicated Kindle hardware -- so much so that Amazon itself recommends users shop either on the Kindle hardware, or through a Web browser on their PCs.

Using iPhone 3.0, Amazon and other e-book developers will be able to build a rich shopping experience into the Kindle iPhone software.

Likewise, publishers of city guides will be able to sell, or give away, the guide software, and then sell guides for individual cities. And magazine and newspaper publishers will be able to more easily sell content -- assuming they're able to find customers willing to buy.

"We'll see more capable applications coming to market, more complex applications coming to market, and, hopefully for developers, more expensive applications coming to market," Baker said.

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