Apple to preview new iPhone OS this week

The company has sent out invitations to a "sneak peek" of the next OS

Apple on Thursday will preview the next-generation iPhone operating system, just a few days after the launch of the iPad tablet, which also runs on the OS.

The company on Tuesday sent out invitations for an event that will provide a "sneak peek of the next generation of iPhone OS software." The event will be at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.

Apple will be previewing the iPhone 4.0 OS, according to the invitation. The invite shows the number four reflecting in the background of an image.

Rumors about a new iPhone OS started spreading in early January, with speculation that a new iPhone would launch at a Jan. 27 event. However, a new OS was not announced.

Apple's last major iPhone OS update was in March 2009, when it previewed the iPhone 3.0 OS, which was ultimately released in June last year. The OS included more than 100 new features, including cut and paste, landscape mode for key applications, push notification, peer-to-peer Bluetooth-based multiplayer gaming, multimedia message service (MMS), and the ability to take voice memos.

Users may be looking for specific features in the iPhone 4.0 OS, said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates. A key feature could be multitasking capabilities, he said.

The iPhone already has multitasking features, but it is limited to only certain applications like e-mail, Gold said. Users want "real" multitasking capabilities where multiple applications can be run at the same time, Gold said.

IDC research director Carl Howe agreed, saying that users are expecting more multitasking capabilities in devices like the iPhone. But running multiple applications may consume more battery life, he said.

Apple may also add in-application advertising features with iPhone OS, IDC's Howe said. That would let Apple engage directly with advertisers and get a share of their advertising revenue. Apple recently acquired Quattro Wireless, an ad-serving, tracking and analytics company. Apple is also seeking a patent related to targeted advertise within an OS, according to a blog entry on IPWatchdog.com, which is run by a patent consulting firm.

Some iPad features, such as e-reading capabilities, may also make it to the iPhone OS update, Howe said. The programs in the iPhone OS may also be re-engineered to work with the Apple's A4 chip, which is powering the iPad, he said.

It's also important for Apple to include stronger enterprise features in the iPhone OS, Gold said. Apple needs to make the OS more secure and manageable with over-the-air provisioning features. Users are tied to Apple's App Store to buy or update software, and independent provisioning features would allow system administrators to add or update software by connecting directly to devices.

Apple could surprise the market by adding Flash to view videos on the Internet, Gold said. Some users have complained about the iPad's lack of Flash support, calling it a major drawback. Apple mostly relies on HTML5, an upcoming Web markup language standard, which reduces the need for proprietary video platforms such as Adobe's Flash and Microsoft's Silverlight. However, HTML5 is still under development which is why Apple may be considering Flash support, Gold said.

Apple may also build in cosmetic enhancements, like an enhanced user interface and stronger touch and multimedia features, the analysts said.

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