Determined to keep its name in the headlines, Apple is set to shake up the consumer tech world some more on Thursday with a look at the future of the iPhone. An operating-system update for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad is expected to include greater support for multitasking.
The company has invited reporters to its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters for a "sneak peek into the future of iPhone OS." It's unlikely the next-generation iPhone will make an appearance, though. The company has traditionally kept hardware and software launches separate.
'What Can You Do Now?'
So analysts expect iPhone OS 4.0 to be available for current iPhones while shaping a 4G phone, which could appear as soon as this summer if the trend of new models since 2007 continues. Apple spokesperson Trudy Muller had no comment in an e-mail beyond the company's "sneak peek of the next generation of iPhone OS software" line.
With a user experience that brings high satisfaction ratings and sparks duplication efforts by rivals, the pressure is on Apple to keep adding value to its smartphone.
"The big question with the iPhone platform is, what can you do now?" asked senior wireless devices analyst Ramon Llamas of IDC Research.
Apple clearly sees multitasking as a desired feature among consumers. Current commercials for the iPhone already tout the handset's ability to use a browser or other applications without interrupting a call.
Rumors point to an increased ability to use third-party apps simultaneously, perhaps with a button or gesture that would display all active programs on the screen.
Llamas said that while rumors have centered on greater multitasking capability, it's also likely the revamped platform will include "developer-facing stuff," or features that make it easier for third-party companies to create and sell applications for the iPhone.
It's also likely that Apple will unveil a mobile advertising program making use of the Quattro Wireless ad agency it purchased in January for $275 million. Competition with Google, which purchased rival AdMob, should be fierce.
Llamas said Apple's process of compartmentalizing product announcements is "a great strategy on their part. They are allowing themselves to focus on one thing at a time, and at the same time not hitting consumers with everything at once."
Shifting gears quickly to the iPhone may also steer press coverage away from reports of iPad glitches, such as Wi-Fi connectivity issues, and buyer's remorse among early adopters.
But Llamas said there's no reason for Apple to hide from the iPad's reception after selling an estimated 300,000 devices on Saturday. Marketing firms expect sales between three million and seven million units by year's end. Around 100 iPads have shown up on eBay or Craigslist, USA Today reported Wednesday.
"These are small teething problems, not deal-breakers," Llamas said. "You can expect that from any first-generation product. You are not hearing people say the thing doesn't turn on. These things will be fixed, and they have already put out a [software] patch for the Wi-Fi connectivity issues."