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What iPhone OS 4 means for you

Upgrade packs limited multitasking, adds ads, makes iPad owners wait ... and more

April 9, 2010 07:09 AM ET

Computerworld - Maybe the hoopla over the iPad put a crimp in the schedule, but Apple finally got around to begin pounding the iPhone drum.

In this case, that means Apple's iPhone OS 4, the next version of the company's mobile operating system, which was previewed yesterday to reporters, bloggers, analysts and industry watchers.

Apple's a few weeks late -- the last two years it's touted the new iPhone OS in mid-March -- but it's not so late that it puts a mid-summer release at risk. The company's vast network of developers still has plenty of time to start building apps that will take advantage of the new before Apple does its usual unveiling of a revamped iPhone.

So, what's in iPhone OS 4? A lot of catch-up, say some, a whole lot of goodness, say most. That's the quick analysis, anyway, of the next generation software that will add a bunch of features, including a few, like multitasking, that users have been yapping about for years, to the growing collection of Apple's mobile devices.

iPhone OS 4, like its last two predecessors, has more than a single FAQ can cover; this will play out from now until June, the presumed ship date for the next iPhone, and long after. But we wanted answers to the off-the-bat questions right away.

When do I get iPhone OS 4? True to form, Apple was no more specific than "this summer" for the upgrade's release, although developers got their hands on a beta and the SDK (software developers kit) yesterday.

But only iPhone and iPod Touch users get the new OS this summer. iPad owners have to wait.

Wait? Wait until when? iPhone OS 4 won't reach the iPad until "fall," said Jobs today. But he didn't say why.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, wondered whether the delay was to give Apple time to set some hardware ducks in a row. "I'd like to be able to scan [photos] into the iPad," he said, and noted that others have asked for direct printing from the iPad, rather than requiring users to e-mail files to or sync files with a PC or Mac.

In fact, Apple may already be vetting hardware vendors, said Aaron Vronko, CEO of Rapid Repair, an iPhone repair firm and experienced teardown expert. There's a USB controller inside the iPad, says Vrnoko, who disassembled an iPad last Saturday. The evidence is Apple's online store, where the company's selling a kit that connects s camera's USB port to the iPad's sync and charging port.

Vronko's bet? Apple will allow select hardware manufacturers to access the controller -- again the Apple's control of the iPhone/iPad ecosystem -- for, say, printing.

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