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Apple Makes 'Push' With New iPhone Software

Apple iPhone software chief Scott Forstall
Apple iPhone software chief Scott Forstall. Photo: David Needle.
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CUPERTINO, Calif. -- Apple officials and third-party developers dazzled a packed hall here at the company's headquarters, showing off a beta of its upcoming iPhone software that will introduce some long sought-after enhancements.

Version 3.0 of the iPhone operating system, now at version 2.2.1, will usher in a slew of features that users have been asking for, like cut-and-paste and "push" updates -- which create a persistent connection to Apple's servers, so things like news, traffic, stock and sports alerts can be delivered in real time.

The push feature had been expected last fall, but Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) senior vice president of iPhone software, Scott Forstall, admitted it was late.

"A huge number of developers said they would use push in volumes we hadn't considered," Forstall said. "We had to completely rearchitect our server infrastructure to make it completely scalable" to accommodate all the applications that wanted to include the features.

"Now we're good to go," he added.

Despite the long wait for enhancements like cut-and-paste and push, users will have to wait a bit longer before they get their hands on the new OS and applications that use it. While the beta of version 3.0 of the iPhone operating system is available now to developers, the finished version is set for general availability this summer.

Apple would not comment on whether it plans to bring out a new model of the iPhone this summer as well, but there was plenty in the new software for current iPhone users to get excited about.

iPhone enhancements aplenty

In one demo, Oke Okaro of ESPN showed how the sports network delivered a real-time alert update complete with a video highlight from an NCAA basketball game in the current "March Madness" tournament.

Okaro said ESPN delivers over 50 million alerts a month. With the new iPhone software it will be able to tailor the video to the connection the iPhone user has enabled -- either 3G or Wi-Fi.

"You used to have to pull it in," Okaro said. "Now we bring it to you."

Apple's Forstall whizzed through several of what he said were the hundred new features in iPhone OS 3.0. In addition to push services, the update includes new peer-to-peer functions, e-commerce within an application and enhanced Spotlight search, which becomes available across applications.

Thanks to the Spotlight upgrade, iPhone users can search for specific e-mail messages, contact info and other information in various applications from a single menu.

The e-commerce or "In-App Purchase" feature, as Apple calls it, enables purchases to be made from inside an application with a few simple taps. This might include buying additional levels from within a game, business software upgrades and additional premium content.

The company said it decided to make In-App Purchase only available for paid applications to avoid confusion, so it will not be available in free apps as an upgrade, or as a mixed free-and-paid option.

Apple is also adding one new application to mix for iPhone users: Voice Memo, which will join other applications on the main screen, can be used for dictating notes that can be stored or sent via e-mail.

Page 2: More enhancements, unanswered questions