Apple took the wraps off the next version of its iPhone software this week, adding more than 100 features for consumers, as well as new ways for developers to create and enhance applications. And the industry analysts contacted by Macworld found the content of Tuesday's iPhone 3.0 software presentation exciting.
"It's a pretty impressive release," said Van Baker, research vice president at technology research firm Gartner. "It further extends [Apple's] lead in terms of the kind of things the platform can do."
The event, held on the company's campus in Cupertino, Calif., focused on features for both developers and consumers. Of particular note was a long-promised feature that has yet to see the light of day—push notification.
Push notification lets applications that aren't open receive notifications when something has changed. For instance, an instant messaging (IM) client could alert you when someone sends you new message, without having the application open.
"Apple just gave developers another good set of reasons to get on the platform," said Michael Gartenberg, vice president of strategy and analysis for media and technology research firm Interpret. "Apple is making sure that the only platform you are going to get this type of functionality on is the iPhone."
Another area of great interest to developers was in-app purchases—the ability to sell products from within an app itself. Apple gave the examples of being able sell additional levels for a game or to sell e-books books, all without making customers take a special trip to the App Store.
"With in-app purchases, Apple has opened up a whole slew of business models," said Gartenberg. "There's a war going on for the hearts and minds of developers, and now Apple has made it easier for developers to make and sell apps."
Gartner's Baker believes that these new capabilities for developers may bring something else come to the App Store as well—higher prices. With more sophisticated programs, Baker thinks that $15, $20, and $25 apps will become much more common when iPhone Software 3.0 is released.
For users, one of the biggest additons was the ability to copy and paste text, a feature previously missing from the iPhone. But the new software also brings support MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service), Spotlight searching, and more. Yet some people think these features should have been there from the start.
"Apple filled a lot of holes with things like copy and paste, but that's them playing catch-up," said Baker. And Ross Rubin, director of analysis at market-research firm NPD Group, agreed. "They certainly grabbed a lot of the low hanging fruit that was available in the operating system upgrade," he said.
However, it would be hard to make the argument that the changes to the iPhone's operating system are anything but good news for Apple and its customers.
"The extensibility of the device through software is going to be the story in 2009," said Gartenberg.