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6/6/2008
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Next-Gen iPhone Preview: Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference '08

Take a sneak peek at Apple's plans for its enhanced 3G iPhone, new version of Mac OS X, and more, to be announced at Apple's WWDC June 9 - 13.

Apple developers will flock to WWDC08 in San Francisco June 9 - 13 to learn about writing software for Mac devices and hear Steve Jobs introduce new products, including an upgraded iPhone, and possible new versions of Mac OS X and the .Mac service.

Unlike the other big annual Mac event -- Macworld in January -- WWDC08 is a more narrowly focused conference. It's also closed to the press, except for Monday's keynote address. It's the traditional venue for Apple to unveil major announcements, though not as big as the launches at January's Macworld. If Macworld is Scooby-Doo, then WWDC is Scrappy-Doo.

This year, we can expect to see Jobs unveil a new iPhone, with faster wireless networking and improved location services, along with a new version of the iPhone OS with support for third-party applications.

He'll also likely deliver a preview of Mac OS X, due to arrive in users' hands next year. And he might also announce an upgrade to the .Mac service for synching and backing up multiple devices over the Internet.

Next-Generation iPhone

The next-generation iPhone, which will be available June 18, will be the centerpiece of Monday's announcement. The new version will support 3G, for much quicker throughput, along with GPS.

The price could be surprisingly low. Fortune reported in April that the new version of the iPhone will be priced at a startlingly reduced $199 -- the existing versions are $399 and $499 -- however, our own Eric Zeman says that's not bloody likely, as does Nielsen analyst Roger Entner, who told RCRWireless News, "There's no need to upgrade the device's capabilities and lower its cost at the same time." AT&T Mobility will want to keep the price high, at first, to throttle demand on their network, Entner says.

AT&T upgraded its 3G network in preparation for the next-gen iPhone. It can now reach speeds of 700 Kbps to 1.7 Mbps on the downlink and 500 Kbps to 1.2 Mbps while uploading, a 20% increase.

I'm particularly excited about GPS. I like my Garmin Nuvi 350 GPS, but I think the Google Maps application on the iPhone has a much friendlier user interface. One potential problem for using the iPhone as a GPS device: The speaker on the current iPhone is pretty weak, it's hard to make out what people are saying more than a few inches away. A GPS-enabled iPhone would require an adapter to pipe output through your car speakers, so you can hear directions over screaming kids in the car.

Real GPS To Replace iPhone's Current Location Technology

I really like the idea of using a GPS-enabled iPhone for directions while walking, especially on city streets. Neither the current iPhone nor the Garmin are well-suited to that. The iPhone's current location-detective technology is ingenious -- it triangulates on the location of nearby cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots -- but not precise enough for walking distance. And the Garmin Nuvi is bulky and awkward, holding it in my hand while walking makes me feel like I'm a Trekkie pretending to be Mr. Spock looking at his tricorder ("Sensors indicate a Starbucks on this planet, Captain!")

With a GPS iPhone, I can envision walking down the street happily listening to music or talking on the phone on my earbuds, occasionally being interrupted by walking directions (and, as long as I'm fantasizing, the walking directions will be delivered in Ann-Margret's voice).

The other major element in the upgraded iPhone will be support for iPhone 2.0 software, which for the first time provide an Apple-sanctioned way of installing native third-party apps on the iPhone.

Until now, you could get two kinds of apps for the iPhone: You could use apps built into Mobile Safari, which are basically AJAX Web pages and bookmarklets optimized for the tiny browser. Or you could download and install "jailbreak" software to install native apps, but that option was unsupported by Apple.

Apple started shipping preliminary versions of the iPhone 2.0 software and accompanying software development kit in March, allowing developers to start writing native iPhone apps. Developers are required to sell the apps through iTunes, and pay $99 for the SDK. Apple will take a 30% cut of the price of the software although it won't charge anything for free apps.

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