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Apple Approves First Push-Notification Apps

Push-notification system enables apps to gain a user's attention without killing iPhone and iPod Touch system resources.

Apple iPhone 3G S
(click image for larger view)
Apple iPhone 3G S

Apple is approving applications using its oft-delayed push-notification system, which will likely bolster the company's already-strong App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Unlike rivals Android, BlackBerry, Symbian, Windows Mobile, and webOS, the iPhone does not allow users to run third-party applications in the background. Apple has said this type of system would be too much of a drain on the handset's batteries and system resources.

The company introduced the push-notification system as part of the 3.0 software, enabling apps to gain a user's attention without killing system resources. With the system in place, an app would be connected to an Apple server that has a persistent connection to the handset. For example, a user could stay logged in to an instant messaging program without having the app open on the phone, and the system could send an audible or visual cue to the handset when the app needs attention.

"It's always a balancing act between preserving system resources and batteries, and most users aren't looking for 3-D processing in the background on a phone," said Michael Gartenberg, VP of strategy and analysis at Interpret. "For now, this is about as good of a compromise as you're going to get."

One of the first apps using the push-notification system appears to be Beejive IM 3.0. It has support for various IM protocols such as Google Talk, Facebook, Jabber, and AIM. This will likely be followed by other apps that are aimed at various types of users.

On the consumer side, IM programs are a natural fit for the system, but there could also be multiple uses for this with games and media apps. For business users, the system could be useful for apps where real-time information is critical, such corporate e-mail programs or CRM apps.


The iPhone may be your next full-function computer. InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of this topic. Download the report here (registration required).

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