Monday, June 9, 2008


No, that's not some play on "What Would [D] [C]?" It stands for World-Wide Developers Conference, Apple's annual week-long conference for people that write software for the Mac. For the last several years, the major focus has been on whatever is coming in the next version of Mac OS X. This year, there are rumors that there will be a preview of the next release, 10.6, which some are code-naming Snow Leopard, which might be released next year sometime. But, for the first time, there will also be a major track on developing for something other than the Mac - the iPhone. At the end of the month, apple will release firmware version 2.0, which will bring the capability to run (legitimate) third-party applications, and support for many features desired by corporate America. So, developing for the iPhone will have a lot of airtime.

But both of those are overshadowed by the number one rumor surrounding Steve Jobs' keynote address - the next generation of the iPhone. Those who follow these things feel that an unveiling is all but certain - there have been many strong indications that it is imminent. The biggest anticipated change is the addition of 3G wireless, which is a much faster cellular data network than EDGE, which the current iPhone uses. EDGE feels like the bad-old days of dial-up internet access, but is available most everywhere you can get a cell signal in the US, and requires relatively little power. Most of the iPhone's applications - weather, maps, email - have been optimized to work well even with the relatively slow speed of EDGE. Surfing the web, however, can be somewhat painful, especially if you need to find some information now. For that, you are better off using the built-in WiFi, but only when you can find it.

3G is comparable to broadband, is available in most metropolitan areas of the US (and most of Europe, Japan, and Korea), but is more expensive to implement and burns through battery power a bit fast, which has stifled its adoption in cellphones until recently. iPhone users have demonstrated a much greater appetite for wireless data access than other smartphone users. While hardly the first smartphone to take advantage of it, a 3G-iPhone will certainly speed adoption of this technology.

Others anticipate that the iPhone will have a built-in GPS receiver, allowing it to know where it is located to within, say, ten meters. Right now the iPhone can very generally work out where it is, based on the closest cell towers. The best I've ever seen that work is to within a couple hundred feet. Good enough to tell you what the closest restaurants are, not good enough to give you realtime directions to find them. There are tremendous amounts of "location-aware" applications that will blow your mind, most of which haven't been invented yet.

Others expect a better camera (myeh), more storage (always a plus), a slimmer (or thicker) profile, etc., etc. Other question marks abound. For myself, I just hope for a trade-in/upgrade program :-) If nothing else, you can expect to hear about it. For those interested in the blow-by-blow, you can get live blog coverage from the event.

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