Apple unveils new iPhone OS with multitasking support

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As expected, Apple debuted its iPhone 4.0 operating system today. This latest version of the OS includes new features such as support for multitasking and a mobile advertising platform.

iphone mutlitaskingThe iPhone OS 4 beta software and SDK are available immediately for iPhone Developer Program members. Apple's iPhone OS 4 will be available as a software update to iPhone and iPod touch users this summer, though first-generation devices won't get the full suite of upgrades (such as multitasking). Further, a version of iPhone OS 4 will be coming to iPad this fall.

Apple fans have long complained about the iPhone's lack of multitasking. Palm highlighted the iPhone's lack of multitasking when it debuted its own webOS platform, which allows multitasking. In addition, Verizon Wireless has made multitasking a key selling point in its campaign for the Motorola Droid, based on Google's Android platform.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs, speaking at a media event at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., acknowledged that iPhone users have been waiting for multitasking for some time. "We weren't the first to this party, but we're going to be the best, just like cut and paste," he said, according to a number of live blogs covering the event. "It's really easy to implement multitasking in a way that drains battery life. If you don't do it just right your phone's going to feel sluggish and your battery life is going to go way down. We've figured out how to implement multitasking of third-party apps and avoid those things."

Apple's iPhone 4 sports seven different APIs for multitasking, and 1,500 new APIs overall. The APIs for multitasking include support for background audio, VoIP, background location, push notifications, local notifications, task completion and fast-app switching. Users can double-click the home-screen button on the iPhone to bring up a dock, which shows apps that are currently running; they can then switch among apps.

In addition to multitasking, Apple's new OS also includes a mobile ad platform, called iAd. The new platform allows users to stay in their app when they click on an ad. Apple will sell and host the ads, and developers will get 60 percent of the revenue. In a swipe at Adobe, Jobs noted that this will all be enabled by HTML5 technology, and not Adobe's Flash platform, which Apple does not support on the iPhone or iPad. Click here for more on iAd.

Apple also debuted a folders function that will allow users to organize and access apps; an improved email service with a unified inbox, fast inbox switching and threaded messages; enhanced Enterprise support with improved data protection, mobile device management and wireless app distribution; and iBooks, the digital book reader Apple introduced on its iPad.

As part of its presentation, Apple trumpeted its successes on the iPhone and iPad front. The company said it has sold 450,000 iPads, that it has recorded 600,000 iBook downloads, and notched 3.5 million iPad app downloads. For the iPhone, the company has recorded 4 billion downloaded apps, counts 185,000 applications in its App Store, and has sold more than 50 million iPhones and 35 million iPod touches--for a combined user base of 85 million.

For more:
- see this release
- see Apple's iPhone 4.0 developer page
- see this Engadget live blog
- see this WSJ live blog (sub. req.)
- see this Wired article

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