A “Sneak peek into the future of the iPhone OS”?!?

Greetings from the Conference On World Affairs in Boulder, where I’ll be holed up all week.

But I wish I were free on Thursday. I just got an invite for a special event on the Apple campus on Thursday. Topic: the future of the iPhone OS. Image: the long shadow of a number “4.”

No way in hell thAt I can make it but I’ll be watching closely. We’ve all known that iPhone OS 4.0 was coming in the near future, I assumed that Apple would show it off during the Worldwide Developers Conference in the summer.

The timing here is interesting. There are two upsides to demoing 4.0 this early:

1) It can put a halo around the iPad. As far as i can tell, reviewers and the public have dinged the iPad over one serious issue: multitasking. That’s rumored to be a feature of 4.0. If Apple is in a position to commit to a date when that limitation will be eliminated, it’ll move a lot of people forward from the “maybe” pile.

(assuming that iPhone OS 4.0 implies an imminent iPad OS 4.0.)

2) Apple usually shows off new iPhones in the summer. If these phones are going to ship with 4.0, and the new os delivers a bunch of new, basic features (like, say, multitasking) then they’ll need to get the new tools in the developers’ hands ASAP. Showing their cards to consumers allows Apple to release all of 4.0’s information, tools, and training materials to the developer community and hit the ground running.

One question that’s uniquely relevant to the iPad: will an os update that adds new features to the iPad be a free download? Or will it be an App Store purchase?

[EDITED: Yes, the next os update for the ipad will be free. Thanks for the reminder, folks.]

New features for the iPod Touch typically come at a nominal price. Apple says it’s due to the sort of complicated bookkeeping that makes sense to people who are about 72% silicon; if they add value to product still in inventory, then that inventory becomes more valuable, and then Apple needs to…somethingsomethingsomething. They sidestep this issue by making the “new features” a separate product.

(Please don’t ask me why this doesn’t apply to the iPhone, which gets it’s updates for free. I’m in Boulder. It’s a mile up. There’s like nine oxygen molecules floating around and everybody has to share them.)

So IF there’s an iPad OS update, AND it adds something hugely useful like multitasking, AND it costs twenty bucks…how will folks react? Will they feel validated they they own a vibrant and flourishing platform where the hits just keep on coming? Or will they feel as though they’re being nickel and dimes just three months after making such a major purchase?

Screw it. If I can listen to Pandora while I work, I’ll be the happiest boy in all of Puppetland.

23 thoughts on “A “Sneak peek into the future of the iPhone OS”?!?

  1. Dips

    Apple has promised in the iPad Software License Agreement that the next major OS release will be free for the iPad. It doesn’t, however, promise the same for the one after that.

    Via ArsTechnica [http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/2010/03/ipad-eula-doesnt-mandate-paid-os-upgrades.ars]

    “Apple will provide you any iPad OS software updates that it may release from time to time, up to and including the next major iPad OS software release following the version of iPad OS software that originally shipped from Apple on your iPad, for free. For example, if your iPad originally shipped with iPad 3.x software, Apple would provide you with any iPad OS software updates it might release up to and including the iPad 4.x software release. Such updates and releases may not necessarily include all of the new software features that Apple releases for newer iPad models”

  2. Blaine

    Hi Andy,
    First time poster, long time fan :)

    I remember seeing on macrumors and/or engadget that apple specifically said the iPad would get 4.0 but future updates after that would be free, in the legal terms of agreement.


  3. Justin D

    Somewhere in the legalese (either the manual or the EULA or I-forget-exactly-where) it stated (paraphrasing) that “Hey folks, next major version update (4.0) will be free but we may charge for future major version updates (5.0+).”

  4. Donald Brown

    There had been accounting rules that supposedly called for it (it wasn’t universally agreed that this was needed, but there was something Apple could point to). Those rules have now changed, in part due to Apple’s lobbying. So, the only reason for charging is “we are a profit-making company and we see a desire to make profit here.” Which I don’t think Apple will do for the iPad at least.

  5. Sam

    I thought the iPad EULA stated that the next version upgrade was free but after that it was vague. BTW, Andy, did you post with the iPad? I’m expecting this to be a big upgrade for the iPad.

  6. Chris

    The information on Apple’s own web site says the first major update after your purchase of the iPad will be free! I am also assuming that from that point forward the fee would be similar to the iPod touch, so let’s say 9.95 for the updates.

  7. Bryan

    Amen Andy. If 4.0 costs a little bit for the iPad, I would gladly pay it. Hopefully they will release a 4.0 SDK on the 8th so we can play with it.

  8. Jough Dempsey

    Apple demoed the 2.0 and 3.0 software in March of the past two years while getting the SDK out at the same time so that devs could start working on apps ahead of the full release being available in July when the new iPhones came out, so it makes sense they’d do the same thing with 4.0, especially if there are major new features like multitasking and higher resolutions to make use of.

    Also, according to Apple the 4.0 software will be a free download for current iPad owners, although I couldn’t find the link that verified that for this comment post. But I remember it being somewhere reasonably official.

  9. Allen S.

    Hi Andy! Great write-up, and excellent point about the cost of the OS. If they do attach some cost to it, I sure do hope they’ll at least allow OS 4.0 to get on there as a freebie, given how close the launch theoretically would be to the release of the iPad.

    On another note, I’ve discovered that Slacker Radio has many more song choices than Pandora. Give it a shot. Thanks for your impromptu revealing on MBW ep. 188.


  10. Alastair

    “Please don’t ask me why this doesn’t apply to the iPhone, which gets it’s updates for free.”
    Possibly because the iPod Touch is usually a one-off purchase, but most iPhones are on some sort of contract where Apple still receives a cut of the regular revenue (if I remember correctly).
    — Alastair

  11. Pauld

    I believe iPhone revenue is reported over a number of years using magical subscription accounting or somesuch, so Apple can offer software upgrades for free. Although I also remember hearing that Apple wants to get away
    from this accounting method too. It’s crazy: I totally understand computer programming, but this accountancy lark is bewildering in the extreme.

  12. bud

    This was sort of addressed around roll out of the iPad no? That the First upgrade was free, but the rest would have to be at least a nominal payment, as with the iPod Touch, because of the general accounting hoohah. Perhaps by the time that rolls around the sweet spot for iPad apps will have settled, because of relatively few iPad apps now, developers can get away with a bit of price gouging before the skinflint attitude pervades the consumer mindset.

    I’d really like to see a more open wifi and bluetooth stack in iPhone OS 4.0. Link to a bluetooth GPS with your WiFi Only iPad? Ad Hoc networking for games, etcetera? Perhaps some wifi syncing of data at least? (I doubt loading of media will ever be allowed except via hardwired iTunes sync)

  13. Michael

    Personally, I just the FM receiver to be turned on in my iPod Touch. Wifi is far from ubiquitous where I live (Winnipeg) and I miss my CBC radio during the day.

  14. ForensicCPA

    I’m with you on this. And the goofy update price point is one of the fallouts from SOX. I’m still unbothered overall about lack of MT – I’ll use a real box for that.

  15. Andy

    I find it interesting that the 4.0 announcement is happening in between the availability or the two iPad models. Not saying that there is any necessary significance, but I didn’t expect to see any news until after the other foot had fallen, so to speak.

  16. Scott

    I don’t get how people can complain about $10 for a major OS upgrade. (Then again, I don’t get how people can complain that $2 is too much for a good iPhone game, either, when a typical XBox game costs $50.) When the $29 price for 10.6 was announced, the people who understood the magnitude of the upgrade were astounded. $10 to get a better iPhone OS is without a doubt ten of the best dollars I will ever spend.

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