Push notifications lead changes for third-party apps

The long-promised push notification feature will lead an assortment of changes to third-party apps in the upcoming iPhone 3.0 software, Apple revealed at a special event at the company’s Cupertino, Calif. campus on Tuesday.

Scott Forstall, Apple’s senior vice president of iPhone software, told attendees, "you know, we’re late on this one" in talking about push notifications, which Apple expected to be functional by the end of last year. With the huge number of developers that submitted apps to Apple, Forstall said the technology was overwhelmed and required a complete reworking.

With push notifications, applications for Instant messaging, news readers, social networking, and calendaring (to name a few) can be closed—that is, not running—but still provide notifications when changes occur (like with Apple's Mail or SMS applications). Unlike background processes, which eat up resources and battery, push notifications are only used for a short time and when needed.

Another new feature, based on developer requests, is a subscription model in the App Store—such as magazine subscriptions. Developers also will be able to sell products from within an app itself. That means that game developers can sell additional levels for their games and eBook developers can host a virtual bookstore inside their app for consumers to purchase books.

All transactions will still take place through the App Store, and Apple said the business model for in-app purchases will be the same for developers as the current model: Apple gets 30 percent of the revenue, while developers take home 70 percent.

Gamers will be very happy about another developer feature in the new version of iPhone software: Peer-to-Peer connectivity. Using this feature, people can play games with friends over a local network. The technology uses Bonjour over Bluetooth, not Wi-Fi. While gaming is the obvious example to use for this type of technology, Apple said it would work for any Peer-to-Peer application.

iPhone Software 3.0 will also see a big change in Google Maps. Developers will now be able to embed a map directly within their applications. The maps will support regular map, satellite, and hybrid views; adding your own locations; pinch-and-zoom; and GPS and Wi-Fi/cell location. And speaking of GPS, Apple will now allow third-parties to create GPS applications the offer turn-by-turn driving (as long as developers provide their own maps—they can't use the included Google Maps functionality).

The new features will be available when Apple releases iPhone Software 3.0.

[Updated 10:57 am PT to add information on push notifications and peer-to-peer connectivity.]

[Updated 11:15 am PT to add more information.]

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