5 ways Apple's iPhone OS 4 is a game changer

Developers get their hands on a slew of new features, users benefit, too

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Until now, remote wipe has been available only when using Exchange or Mobile Me. What will also be interesting to see is what will host this new management server; Apple may be creating its own version of RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Apple will also be giving administrators the ability to deploy apps without using iTunes. The company didn't provide details during its Thursday demo but did say that enterprises will be able to distribute custom in-house apps over the air to devices. Left unanswered: What about third-party apps available through the App Store?

All of these enterprise features represent a big shift for Apple because they address the core concerns most IT managers and systems/network administrators have about the iPhone. By finally providing enterprise security, deployment and management solutions, Apple is finally positioning the iPhone as a serious mobile business device while simultaneously expanding the reach of the platform and tapping a very large potential market.

3. Revamped Mail

Another common complaint about the iPhone has been Apple's Mail app, which has always had some distinct limitations that Apple is finally addressing. The biggest of these is a unified in-box that will allow you to see all incoming messages in a single view rather than having to switch from one account's in-box to another. For those who like separate in-boxes, Apple will speed up the process with fast in-box switching.

The iPhone will also gain support for multiple Exchange accounts -- a major boon for business users who have access to or need to check more than one Exchange account as part of their jobs. This also allows accounts with multiple Exchange servers such as one for their primary job, one for client or parent companies, one for home or school, and even access to Google's Gmail calendar and contacts features.

Apple is also offering the option to view messages as threads or conversations, something already common in many e-mail tools. Although this view depends on personal preference, it has become more common in recent years and is the default view for GMail. Viewing messages as threads or conversations lets you easily see replies related to specific messages rather than having to hunt through a date-based list.

These new Mail features should put the application on par with those used on other business-oriented smartphone platforms, including the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Palm's classic and webOS devices. They help make the iPhone more attractive to business users and, of course, they make e-mail management easier for everyone.

Along the way, Apple is going to allow users to open e-mail attachments with both Apple and third-party apps on the iPhone. Given the range of applications that work with varying types of data on the iPhone -- everything from text to office documents, PDFs, graphics and video files -- this is a major advance because it allows each user to choose the best application for the job. Since the iPhone doesn't include a traditional file system for sharing documents between apps, this feature is needed.

4. iAd

iAd is the new mobile advertising network being developed by Apple and Quattro, a mobile ad company Apple recently acquired. The goal of this platform is to create an ad-based revenue stream for developers.

Many developers of games and other free apps have experimented with serving ads to reduce the need to charge for their offerings. However, when clicked, those ads connect to a Web site, thus launching the Safari browser and quitting the app that served the ad.

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