Apple revealed more details this week about its upcoming iPhone 3.0 firmware update which, although hotly anticipated, looks like bringing relatively minor enhancements for both consumers and enterprise users.
Among the most welcome additions will be the ability to cut and paste text, a feature which has been sorely lacking from the handset since its launch in June 2007. For business users who rely on the phone heavily for email, the feature will have immediate and obvious benefits.
Other enterprise-friendly additions include multimedia messaging and new recording features, which together could allow users to record and send audio through the iPhone's messaging tools.
While the updates are significant, the 3.0 firmware will hardly have the enterprise impact of last year's iPhone 2.0 release, which introduced 3G connectivity and support for a number of popular enterprise communications platforms, such as Microsoft Exchange and Cisco's VPN security, designed to usher the iPhone into the enterprise arena.
The real benefits for enterprise users, however, could come not from the end-user upgrades, but from the new tools Apple is providing to developers.
These include a slew of new application programming interfaces (APIs) which will greatly expand the individual applications that users will be able to access on the device.
The new APIs will allow developers to access 'push' data updates to display new events, for example, and to stream audio and video.
Apple is already providing developers with beta versions of the firmware update, and many applications which take advantage of the new APIs could be released at the same time or shortly after the general public gets its hands on the 3.0 update.
This is likely to be where the meat of the improvements will be seen for both consumer and enterprise users: not in the Apple software for the iPhone, but from the third-party apps which will have a chance to do far more with the hardware and software features.
Empowering developers with new tools could also help tilt the dynamic of the App Store. The facility is viewed largely as a place to get touch-screen puzzle games or updated buttons, and some developers have complained that the more useful and expensive applications are suffering at the hands of the fun and games titles.
With a greater range of APIs, developers will no doubt find ways to make the iPhone more productive, possibly renewing interest in business-oriented software.
Games and goofy apps will always take a major share of the attention at any software outlet, but it would be nice if the iPhone's business side could get a bit more recognition in the App Store.
So, while the update looks likely to arrive in June or July, the real benefits of iPhone 3.0 may not be fully realised until weeks or months later.
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