Next Up for the iPhone: A Basic Left Out Before

Scott Forstall, senior vice president in charge of Apple iPhone software, talks at company headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., about the third version of the iPhone operating system, scheduled for launch this summer.
Scott Forstall, senior vice president in charge of Apple iPhone software, talks at company headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., about the third version of the iPhone operating system, scheduled for launch this summer. (By Tony Avelar -- Bloomberg News)
By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Here it is, the big announcement for the next generation of iPhone: cut and paste.

Okay, it doesn't sound like much, but the cognoscenti were excited yesterday -- some reportedly cheered -- when Apple said that its latest software would allow iPhone users to copy and paste blocks of text from one application to another.

The update is one of several Apple showed off during a news conference at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters to unveil the third version of the software that runs its popular iPhone. Some of the tweaks Apple introduced yesterday will change how applications on the device communicate with the Web, other software programs and other iPhones.

"It's a significant update to the [operating system] and it addresses a lot of things consumers have been wanting," said Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies, a Silicon Valley think tank. "It also gives developers a lot of tools so that they can be more creative."

IPhone 3.0 introduces "peer-to-peer networking" through which owners can connect their devices with others nearby, if they choose. Such connectivity could allow for the exchange of virtual business cards, for example, or enable head-to-head competition on one of the iPhone's video games.

There are 30 million iPhones and iPod Touches in use that can run software downloaded from its App Store, according to the company. Apple's software store offers 25,000 applications, the company said, and has seen more than 800 million downloads.

Apple is also allowing for a new type of business model for developers with iPhone 3.0 software. Under the current pricing system at iTunes, users pay a one-time fee to download and use an application. But with the latest software tools, developers will be able to sell products through the store on a subscription basis. Or game designers will be able to sell new levels of their video games, one or two levels at a time, if they choose.

"Apple just paved the way for a whole set of new revolutionary applications and games," said Keith Shepherd, founder of the Dupont Circle-based Imangi Studios, a small shop that designs and sells games through the App Store. "My head is already swimming with new ideas."

To generate excitement for the release, scheduled for summer, Apple showed off a range of software applications yesterday. Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone software, showed a device designed to let iPhone users monitor their blood pressure and upload the data to their doctors. Database software company Oracle demonstrated some of its supply management tools.

Game publisher Electronic Arts gave a peek at an upcoming iPhone version of The Sims and showed how the game's virtual characters will be able to access an iPhone owner's iTunes collection. EA is hoping to make some additional revenue with the upcoming title by getting users to shell out 99 cents for the right to dress their characters with virtual clothes from an iTunes store.

Some of the new features introduced yesterday fill in missing functionality that users have been hankering for since the iPhone was introduced in 2007.

While the ability to cut and paste text from a Web page onto, say, an e-mail might not be considered cutting edge, it's a feature that has remained at the top of iPhone users' wish lists.

The new operating system will be available as a free iPhone download this summer. IPod Touch owners will have to pay $9.95 for the upgrade.


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