iPhone 3.0 preview points to new phone by June, say analysts

Likely additions include MMS, video, turn-by-turn directions, maybe Flash

The timing of today's announcement from Apple Inc. that it will preview iPhone 3.0 next week is a sure sign that the company is on track to launch an updated phone this summer, analysts said.

Last year, Apple unveiled iPhone 2.0, and its supporting software developers kit, or SDK, in early March 2008. It then followed that with a coming-out party for the new iPhone 3G in June and sales in July.

Analysts unanimously agreed that the timing of next week's preview of iPhone 3.0 software and SDK points to a similar timetable for a refresh of Apple's hardware.

"I would expect the same timeline," said Jeff Kagan, an independent wireless and telecommunications analyst in Atlanta.

"Certainly makes sense," agreed Van Baker, an analyst at Gartner Inc. "You want the SDK out there to give developers time to come up with something."

Another benefit, added Baker, is the possibility that CEO Steve Jobs, who is on medical leave through the end of June, would make an appearance to launch a new iPhone at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) -- the same venue he used last year to strut the iPhone 3G.

"If Steve comes back [for WWDC], that would be nice timing for Apple because everyone would get all excited that he's back," said Baker. "If that happens, the stars would all be aligned to give them quite the splash."

Apple has not published this year's WWDC schedule, but the event has been held during the first half of June for the past two years. Recent reports, meanwhile, have pegged the most likely dates as June 6-12, with the keynote -- where Jobs has traditionally trotted out new products -- on Monday, June 8.

The analysts also ticked off some of what they expect to see next week -- and this summer -- added to the iPhone's existing feature set.

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