Apple has released beta copies of the next version of its mobile operating system to developers.
iOS 4.3, as the update is called, will add a number of new features and capabilities to host devices, which include the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. Among the most significant is a multi-touch capability that increases the number of ways in which users can physically interact with the iPad.
"This beta release contains a preview of new Multi-Touch gestures for iPad," Apple said in a note on its developers Web site.
"You can use four or five fingers to pinch to the Home Screen; swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar; and swipe left or right between apps. We are providing this preview before releasing them to the general public to understand how these gestures work with your apps," Apple said.
With Multi-Touch support in place, Apple will reportedly eliminate the physical Home button on the next generation of the iPad, which is expected to be announced within weeks. iOS 4.3 also lets users determine the function of the switch on the side of the iPad. The switch previously served as a dedicated mute button.
The iOS 4.3 update adds a number of other new features to the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.
They include AirPlay support for third-party apps, the introduction of a revamped Facetime icon, and a feature that allows users of GSM equipped devices to set up personal hotspots. The beta code also reportedly makes reference to a service called "Find My Friends," raising speculation that Apple plans to add social networking capabilities to its mobile devices.
Apple shares were flat in pre-market trading Thursday, holding steady at $344.46.