iPhone OS 4 Quick Take

My quick take on today’s iPhone OS 4 announcements:

Multitasking and Folders: Wow! Two new features in iPhone OS 4 have been on my wish-list since the App Store first opened. I am thrilled to see their arrival.

Multitasking. You’ll now be able to do such tricks as taking a phone call in Skype while playing a game. You’ll also be able to select music from iPod while leaving a GPS app running and continuing to offer directions. This is a huge deal and is a giant leap for the OS. This Macworld article covers more details.

Folders. You’ll at last be able to take a collection of app icons on your Home pages (such as all your games) and combine them into one folder icon. Super.

These two features alone make the upgrade worthwhile.

Better Mail and iBooks on iPhone. Great! A third new “tentpole feature,” although not on my tier one wish list, will still be very welcome: having one unified Inbox for all Mail accounts. An iPhone version of iBooks is yet another welcome addition. Apple really pulled out all the stops for this OS update. I am definitely impressed.

iAd? Not sure about this one. There’s one new feature I could do without: iAd. This is Apple’s new mobile advertising platform. Steve talked about ads would appear on your iPhone an average of once every 3 minutes. He was rather vague about exactly how this would all work. I assume he didn’t mean every 3 minutes, no matter what you are doing. For example, I assume an ad won’t pop up in the middle of watching a movie. At the very least, these ads will only appear in apps that include support for iAd.

What about the older ad formats now included in many apps? Will they be discouraged or even prohibited in OS 4? I doubt there will be an outright ban. But Apple did not spell this out today.

On the plus side, the interface for iAds seems impressive — but they’re still ads. I’m not looking forward to this at all.

iPhone OS compatibility. Only the iPhone 3GS and iPod touch 3rd generation will be able to take full advantage of the new OS. The iPhone 3G and iPod touch 2G will run OS 4, but will not be able to use all of its features (multitasking will be notably absent).

The first generation iPhone and iPod touch are left out of this party. They can’t run iPhone OS 4 at all. This represents the first time an iPhone OS update will not run on all iPhone and iPod touch models. Had to happen eventually I guess.

New as-yet-unannounced iPhones and iPod touches, likely coming this summer, will also run the new OS of course — and should offer additional surprise features as well.

iPhone OS 4 will be coming to the iPad in the fall, a few months behind its release for the pocket-sized devices.

MIA from OS 4. Two big items on my wish list did not make it to iPhone OS 4: (1) Printing and (2) More flexible file sharing (such as the ability to drag and drop files between a Mac and an iPhone). Oh well; there’s always next year.

I also would have liked some mention of when AT&T will finally enable Internet Tethering. Is it ever coming?

No surprise here, but there was also no mention as to whether the new OS would more effectively block attempts at jailbreaking. This is a potentially updated feature I’d be happy for Apple to omit.

Q&A tidbits. Steve offered a few interesting tidbits in the Q&A that followed the formal presentation. He opened the door to the possibility of “widgets” in a future version of the OS for the iPad. And he acknowledged that there would be some sort of approval process for ads submitted to iAd. And that there would be no “porn store” on the iPhone (as if anyone thought otherwise).

No Flash. If you were hoping to see Flash support in the iPhone OS, today’s announcements not only dashed such hopes but pulverized them. As noted in this Mac Observer article: Apple Effectively Bans Flash Compiler in iPhone Os 4 Developer Agreement.

WWDC? Macs? Finally, what’s up with WWDC? Normally, it would have been announced by now — with Apple heavily promoting it. Is there even going to be a WWDC this year? Who knows? Maybe it will be announced next week.

This also started me thinking about Mac OS X 10.7. When will this ever see the light of day? There’s typically been at least a 6 month lag between the announcement that a new OS is coming and its release to end users. It’s thus beginning to look like we won’t see 10.7 until at least 2011. This is a long wait, especially considering that 10.6 was very light on new end-user features.

Combine all this with the fact that Apple has had no new “Get a Mac” ads this year and may be ending the campaign altogether.

Is Apple showing signs of Mac neglect? Is there a larger message to be gleaned from sifting through this bunch of tea leaves? I’m still ruminating on this one.

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