The first round of news out of today's Apple event has to do with a "major update" to the iPhone and iPod Touch operating system. Until now, there's a been a lot of catching up with details related to the app store and the popularity of it. There are more than 25,000 apps in the store today and more than 800,000 downloads - in eight months time. The apps were my favorite thing about the iPhone I didn't keep and they are still my favorite in the iPod Touch.
So Apple is expanding what developers can do with their apps in the new OS. The company notes that developers are asking for other business models, like subscriptions and the ability to charge for additional levels on a game or fresh content on an app. In OS 3.0, developers will be able to do those sorts of things.
Apple, recognizing the popularity of apps within the iPhone/iPod Touch ecosystem, is creating an environment that's friendly to developers, a lure to keep them happy as they build a massive network of piggy banks for Apple. As App stores grow in other smartphone platforms - Blackberry, Palm Pre and so on - Apple is smart to use every turbo boost mechanism at its means to get way ahead in the race.
This is cool. Through Bluetooth, Apple is opening peer-to-peer connectivity on the iPhone/iPod Touch. The obvious example, of course, becomes the kids in the back seat playing a game against each other.
That leads me another observation: the power of the iPod Touch. I've said before that I think the real killer device here is the iPod Touch. It has all the cool features of an iPhone without the cost of the service plan. It's interesting that Apple is referencing both products now, instead of just the iPhone. The company said at the beginning of the event that it had sold 17 million iPhones. Counting the iPod Touch, the company has sold 30 million devices with the OS, bringing that iPod Touch number to 13 million.
Late to Push
OK, the company admits they were late to push technology. Anyone who has used a Blackberry understands the significance of push - you don't have to go and retrieve your e-mail. Your screen simply refreshes when there's a new item. But, because Apple's apps don't run in the background, you wouldn't know if you had any new mail unless you opened the mail app first.
That problem goes away now, opening the doors to new opportunities - and not just mail. Meebo, for example, provides multi-platform chat (AIM, MSN, etc.) interface. Push becomes critical for an app like this, which depends on instant (the "I" in IM) notification. It also becomes critical if a VoIP app comes into play.
So why not just enable apps to run in the background - one of the things that so many have been asking for. Apple says they tested it on other devices - Blackberry, Windows Mobile - and found that it drains battery life, doesn't allow the device to go to sleep and reduces standby time by 80 percent. As a Blackberry user, I'll vouch for the downside of apps running in the background. I have seen all my messages get wiped out because the device memory is overloaded by apps that I never closed - the Facebook app, Maps, the camera and so on. Apple is probably right on this one.
Other uses for Push
It looks like a lot of time spent looking at the benefits of Push technology. Oracle took the stage and talked about its five iPhone apps and enhancements that will help business users. Interestingly enough, the folks at the event don't seem to care. Gizmodo blogger writes in these consecutive posts:
- “Next up is Oracle.” Which elicited audible groans from the audience, despite their CEO being Steve Jobs’ good friend.
- This is your chance to go grab a sandwich. Unless you’re your company’s IT guy that’s trying to get business apps onto your enterprise’s iPhones. Then you’ll be RIVETED.
- Bore-acle, I mean, Oracle:
- The Oracle guys are talking about their app that tracks supply line and blah blah chain blah blah company stuff.
- The Oracle app goes and pulls out data from their backend CRM server, which you can use to find the account rep and contact him over email, phone or SMS.
Also on the stage to showcase their apps is Electronic Arts, LifeScan and ESPN. But it's unfortunate that the folks in the audience would be so - unimpressed - by an Oracle presentation. After all, the importance of adoption in the enterprise should not be underestimated.
Finally, the other stuff we've been waiting for
Well, it took a while to get through all those app demos - and I'm even there. But, now, on to the other important things.
Wishes have been granted. Cut/Copy and Paste are here. Double-taps. Copy formatting. Select blocks of text. It's all in there - using your finger.
MMS. Yes, support for photo, video and audio within a message will be enabled. As Apple talks about what you can do with photos, I love how Joshua Topolsky quotes and comments on the Engadget blog. His 11:10 am entry:
"Now there's one more thing I want to show you. And that's photos. We've had requests to send more than one pic at a time -- and now you can do that." You can select multiple pictures and copy them, then paste them into a mail message. "So, copy/paste in iPhone 3.0." Applause. Applause for a feature that every other device in the world has. Odd.
It appears that Search is here, as well.
In all, we're talking 100 new features and 1,000 new APIs. It's a major update to the OS and the developer beta is available today. iPhone OS 3.0 will ship this summer and will be free to all iPhone 3G customers. Also, some features can be used on the original iPhone, as well, though some - like stereo Bluetooth - cannot. And update for my iPod Touch will cost me $9.95.
One last thing: Unlike many of the Steve Jobs events, there was no "One Last Thing" in Cupertino today. No Tablet PC. No word of AT&T service problems. Just plenty of new stuff for the OS - as opposed to just the iPhone. With developers on board, revenue models in place and a popular product line - the iPod, that is - holding its own against the recession blues, Apple is paving the way for a headstart in this race.