SAN JOSE, Calif. Apple Inc. released a beta version of its mobile operating system that will support multi-tasking as well as application programming interfaces to support an online game site it will open later this year. Apple OS 4 will be available on the iPhone and iPod Touch this summer and the iPad this fall.
The software also supports a new method of embedding ads into mobile applications. Apple will provide a service to sell and host the ads, charging 60 percent of the revenue they generate.
The new release provides seven new services to add multitasking features to OS 4 apps. They include support for playing background audio and music while running other apps, and receiving a voice-over-IP call even if a handset is asleep or running another app.
Apple warned that the multitasking features will require either an iPhone 3GS or a third generation iPod Touch that shipped in late 2009. The devices must have at least 32 Gbytes memory.
Analysts have called for Apple to support multi-tasking, a feature common in other handsets that typically use multicore processors. The iPhone should also support a microSD card slot, they said.
The iPhone OS 4 beta release includes a developer preview of Game Center, a set of APIs enabling multiplayer online games. Apple said the APIs are part of its plan to release a social gaming network for iPhone and iPod touch users later this year.
Apple has been positioning the iPhone and iPod Touch as a game platform for some time. Observers say today's cellular networks have too much latency to support good multiplayer games, a shortfall the Long Term Evolution wireless networks coming in 2011 could solve.
Apple is one of many companies expected to start building MEMS gyros into its handsets as well, enabling new kinds of game play and location-based services. However, Apple did not mention gyros in its OS 4 announcement.
The new Apple iAd feature displays a full-screen video and interactive ad content without leaving an app. It lets users return to the app anytime they choose. In the past mobile ads drive users to a separate Web site, leaving the application.
Some 1,500 application programming interfaces and 100 new features are in the new version of the operating system released Thursday (April 8) to participants in an iPhone developer program. Among the other new features are iPhone versions of the iBooks reader and online iBookstore Apple created for the iPad. The new SDK also includes support for application folders, a unified inbox and improved data protection.
For business users, OS 4 now can now link to third-party services to configure and managed iPhones wirelessly. In addition, Apple claimed the software lets businesses host and wirelessly distribute in-house applications with greater security.