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Apple iPhone 3.0 Extends APIs

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The sky is the limit for developers working with the new iPhone

Apple’s iPhone OS 3.0 software, previewed yesterday, allows a lot of new applications and is available immediately – in the form of a beta software kit for registered developers.

The new software will allow users to listen a fellow iPhone user’s iPod music collection, compute medication, and support turn-by-turn Google Maps geopositioning applications.

The iPhone OS 3.0 beta release includes an updated software development kit featuring more than 1,000 new APIs (application programming interfaces), including In-App Purchases; new peer-to-peer connections; a new application interface for accessories; access to the iPod music library; a new maps API, and push notifications.

While the Apple iPhone OS 3 is in beta right now, the company plans to roll out the full version by the summer. The software development kit, or SDK, is available for developers right now. Apple also announced that its App Store now contains 25,000 apps for the iPhone.

There are more than 100 new features in iPhone OS 3.0. More than 800,000 downloads of the previous iPhone SDK have been made, and the paid developer community now numbers more than 50,000, said Scott Forstall, Apple’s senior vice president for iPhone software.

Forstall highlighted several of those new capabilities. Here are some of them:

  • In-App Purchases: When using a paid Web service, such as reading the Wall Street Journal or subscribing to a sports or gaming service, you can choose to maintain your subscription or membership without having to leave the app itself. The new OS brings up a service that links to the site you’re using and conveys the payment.
  • Cut, Copy and Paste: Amazing as it seems, this relatively simple-sounding tool has not yet been available on the iPhone. With OS 3.0, users will be able to select type, photos or graphics (from a Web site, for example), copy them, and then enter into another application – such as e-mail or a text message – as needed. It took a while longer to develop, Forstall said, due to security concerns.
  • New Peer-to-Peer capability: Users of the new OS will be able to link up with other iPhone users via stereo Bluetooth; thus, they will be able to browse another user’s iPod collection of music and videos, and even stream them to their own iPhones. The fellow iPhone users have to be within range of Bluetooth, of course. Other users will be able to play games against each other (think kids in the back of a car on a long trip); no Wi-Fi network is needed. All the iPhones will find each other automatically.
  • New Push Notifications help scale out business apps: This is a unified, generic service for all platforms and developers, and it is located in Apple’s own server farm, Forstall said. The ESPN app that sends out 50 million news alerts per month is a good example; it can scale out with impunity using this capability. Lots of other applications are expected to follow suit.
  • Improved Maps: In partnership with Google Maps, Apple has made the core of the map application available free to developers, so they can consider using them in the applications they intend to build. Included are all the features currently in Google Maps: regular map view, topographic view, and street view; annotations and location tracking is also in the SDK.
  • Accessories: More connections to iPhone accessories will now available. For example, stereo sound-balancing and other, more granular fine-tuning features can be added to the iPhone when it plugs in to a portable speaker set to play music.
  • Johnson & Johnson’s Lifescan application for diabetics can be a real time-saver. A user can keep track or his/her dosage history and schedule, and calculate the amount of each dosage based on what he/she is eating that day — plus factor in the kind of physical activities the user is experiencing that day. All are major factors in getting an insulin dosage correct.

For more detail on the iPhone OS 3.0 or to join the beta developer program, go here.