Apple has previewed the fourth generation of its iPhone operating system, introducing a variety of improvements for enterprise users.
The company unveiled iPhone OS 4.0 on Thursday, showing off features such as a new mobile device management service, a new data protection feature, a more complex passcode functionality and the ability to support multiple Exchange ActiveSync accounts.
Also on Thursday, Apple released a beta version of the new OS, including an updated software development kit (SDK) to members of the iPhone Developer Program. This release lets developers start writing applications that can take advantage of new features in iPhone OS 4.0.
The operating system will be made available as a software update for iPhone users in the summer and for iPad users in the autumn, Apple said. Some new features, such as multitasking, will only work on the iPhone 3GS or the third-generation iPod Touch.
The mobile device management service shown off on Thursday lets people wirelessly configure, query, wipe or lock managed iPhones, Apple said. Enterprises will also be able to securely host and wirelessly distribute in-house applications to employees.
The new data protection feature uses the phone's passcode as an encryption key for mail messages and attachments. The updated OS also allows longer, more complex passcodes than earlier iterations.
IT managers will be able to set up multiple Exchange ActiveSync accounts on iPhones running the new OS, which is compatible with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. Upcoming SSL VPN applications from Juniper Networks and Cisco will be supported, Apple said.
Developers have been given seven new tools to exploit the multitasking capabilities of iPhone OS 4.0. These include VoIP, so internet telephony apps can receive incoming calls even when another app is being used, and background audio for services such as internet radio. Apps will be able to be filed in folders.
Apple has also revamped the email experience in the new version of the OS, providing a unified inbox for disparate email accounts. As with multitasking, this is a feature that has been available for some time on rival platforms such as Android.
Other new features of iPhone OS 4.0 include an in-app mobile advertising platform called iAd and a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) for social gaming.