Will Apple's WWDC 2009 yield a new iPhone?

With Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference just weeks away, the question on everyone's mind is whether or not the event will herald the introduction of a new iPhone device. Because CEO Steve Jobs is still on medical leave, Apple senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Philip Schiller will lead the team of executives keynoting this year's WWDC event, which the company has confirmed will spotlight in-depth sessions on the new iPhone OS 3.0 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard desktop OS. Some onlookers contend that without Jobs in attendance, Apple will not unveil a revamped iPhone. Count Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster among the naysayers: Last week, Munster issued a statement contending the computing giant will instead mount a separate event later this summer to launch a family of new iPhone devices.

"We do not anticipate the launch in early June," Munster said. "We continue to expect multiple models, possibly a high-end iPhone with improved specs from the current version and a low-end version with lower capacity and fewer features along with a reduced pricing plan. Such a model could also be used in Apple's launch of the iPhone into China as soon as the end of summer ‘09."

However, Silicon Alley Insider argues there is still significant evidence to suggest Apple will debut the new iPhone at WWDC 2009, regardless of Jobs' absence. After all, it's been two years since Apple introduced the first iPhone, meaning the initial wave of AT&T subscriber contracts will expire at the end of June--with Palm's hotly-tipped Pre device scheduled to hit retail early next month, Apple will likely want to offer a new iPhone to minimize concerns about consumer defections. Moreover, if Jobs is not healthy enough to deliver a keynote in early June, it's unreasonable to expect he will dramatically improve within the span of a few weeks--nor is it written in stone that only Jobs can formally introduce a new iPhone. Perhaps the most compelling argument lies in the context of the WWDC event--where better to introduce a new smartphone than in the company of the developers who will write applications for the device?

Sooner or later, of course, Apple will introduce a third edition of the iPhone, and the wish list for new features continues to grow--support for Flash video, expanded memory, speedier processing, data tethering and voice-activated commands are all sought-after additions. Silicon Alley Insider reports on insider scuttlebutt suggesting this time around Apple will allow background application support that extends beyond native iPhone apps--according to one source, Apple may allow users to select two apps that can run in the background, suggesting there's evidence of this upgrade in the newest iPhone 3.0 SDK beta, while another source says Apple may selectively allow only certain apps to run in the background, presumably approving or denying permission based on the resources the software requires, its compatibility with Mac OS X stability and network bandwidth requirements. Up to now, Apple has prevented developers from writing software that runs in the background to avoid potential battery life and security problems--assuming those concerns can be addressed, let's hope the background is at the forefront of Apple's iPhone plans. -Jason