On Thursday, Apple announced that it would be giving the world a sneak peek at the next version of its iPhone operating system on St. Paddy's Day. On Friday, the rumor mill began churning out shameless gossip on what will be included in iPhone Software 3.0.
Speculation includes support for the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), the ability to act as a wireless internet connection for a computer (aka tethering), and support for one of the most-glaring omissions of the iPhone's current software: cut-and-paste.
We'd like to add support for multiple concurrent apps to that wish list.
The Boy Genius Report led off the speculative parade, claiming its sources told them that MMS support and tethering over both USB and Bluetooth would be included in iPhone Software 3.0.
The iPhone's lack of MMS - the image and video upgrade to SMS - is arguably as embarrassing as its lack of cut-and-paste. After all, MMS has been around since 2002 and swept Europe as early as 2003. RIM's BlackBerry supports it in plans from MetroPCS, Sprint, and Alltel, and Palm's upcoming Pre is set to support it in Sprint plans, as well.
Speaking of the Palm Pre, Apple's March 17th sneak peek may be a sneaky way to pique interest in the iPhone's future while stealing headlines from the Pre. Although the release date of Palm's hopeful company-savior has not yet been finalized, Palm and Sprint announced wireless-plan pricing this Friday, and other Pre press is sure to come soon.
One Pre feature that we believe may also make it into iPhone Software 3.0 is the ability to have multiple apps open concurrently - a capability that's currently available only through a hack and only on jailbroken iPhones.
The ability to run background apps would allow you to quickly switch back and forth from, say, an iPhone spreadsheet and email. It could also allow developers to write software that could run in background mode, waiting for messages either from the internet or from other apps running on your iPhone, or using the iPhone's location services for any number of purposes - say, to alert you to the fact that you're nearing a preselected address.
Like background apps, copy-and-paste is also currently available only through the kind ministrations of third-party coders, either through a jailbreaker's hack or through a convoluted-but-useful service called pastebud. For those of us who want to cut snippets out of web pages and slip them into email messages or notes, cut-and-paste would be a productivity-booster.
Tethering has been on its way to the iPhone since at least last November, when MobileCrunch reported that AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph De La Vega had told an interviewer it was coming "soon." Even before that promise, Gizmodo had revealed a supposedly authentic email message from Steve Jobs that said that Apple was "discussing it with ATT."
One sticking point in the tethering discussions is undoubtedly what fees AT&T would charge for using the iPhone as a wireless data modem. We have a suggestion: none. After all, the iPhone - which Jobs calls Apple's netbook - already downloads internet data. Why should iPhone users pay more for moving that data over Bluetooth or a USB cable to a laptop? ®