Apple's 3G iPhone Adds Increased Speed and Video Capabilities

After months of anticipation and to no one’s surprise, Apple revealed its iPhone 3G Monday at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco. Also announced was a new version of the Mac operating system for developers—subbed "Snow Leopard"—that features improvements to QuickTime playback.

True to its name, the 3G phone will have a faster internet connection and increased video and location awareness capabilities. The phone will be priced at about half of what it previously was—an 8GB model will cost $199 and a 16GB model will be $299—when the units ship on July 11, 2008.

Shooting for 10 Million Sold by Year’s End
Apple currently sells the iPhone in six countries, but Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced yesterday he had "signed, sealed, and delivered contracts" to roll the new phone out in 70 countries by year's end, with 22 of those countries rolling out on the July 11 launch date. Apple sold 6 million of its 2.5G iPhones prior to "running out" of inventory last month, slightly ahead of schedule thanks to the vast quantity of unlocked or "jailbroken" phones that have made their ways into foreign markets that use GSM service.

"We want to make iPhone affordable enough that everyone can own one," said Jobs during his keynote, which focused only on iPhone with no news on Macintosh or iTunes business units.

Apple has a target of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008, and the lower price and higher data speeds are key to this goal. In the U.S., AT&T, the exclusive iPhone carrier, has upgraded its data service but will also increase monthly pricing for iPhone voice and data services by an average of $10 per month. AT&T also announced that, unlike previously, it will begin subsidizing the iPhone instead of paying Apple a portion of monthly service revenues from iPhone users. CFO Rick Lindner said that the subsidy will likely hurt AT&T’s profits in the short term, news that resulted in AT&T shares falling by 1.7% on Monday.

Sling Shows Off SlingPlayer Mobile
Meanwhile, across the street from Moscone Center West at the Metreon, Sling showed off a prototype of SlingPlayer Mobile that works for both the iPod Touch and the iPhone. In Sling's case, the company didn't show SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone on the beta 2.0 firmware, as it was one of over 20,000 companies that requested beta developer status but were denied—Apple chose about 4,000 of the almost 25,000 beta developer requests.

Sling instead relied on a "jailbroken" phone, a phone that's been modified to allow for updates to the device for developer purposes, as the company had been planning to create a version of its Sling controller months before Apple announced the beta developer software development kit in March 2008. Sling says it expects to have a final release version in a few months.

The iPhone version of the Sling software mimics its Windows Mobile version in that it allows users to access a channel guide when viewing TV and offers basic controls over live TV playback. While Apple's iPhone 3G has high-speed download packet access (HSDPA) that comes close to rivaling Wi-Fi speeds, the Sling prototype software currently requires a Wi-Fi connection to meet the needs of its video streaming.

QuickTime Improvements
Finally, in a closed session, Apple also demonstrated the next version of its Macintosh operating system, OS X 10.6, dubbed "Snow Leopard" for developers. The two main areas of interest to readers are the support for OS-level access to multi-core processors and an updated version of QuickTime. The multi-core processor access, which has vexed those who use key transcoding tools on the Macintosh platform, will be managed by a technology code-named "Grand Central" and appears to create a hardware abstraction layer that means application programmers need not gain skills in multi-core programming. In addition, Open Computing Language (OpenCL) is another multi-processor technology that will allow computers with powerful graphics cards to use the graphics processing unit (GPU) to add muscle behind other computations. Apple has submitted OpenCL as an open standard that could also benefit Windows users.

"Snow Leopard" also introduces QuickTime X, an update to Apple's venerable but aging media technology. Based on technology designed for the iPhone, the new rewrite of QuickTime aims to "optimize support for modern audio and video formats resulting in extremely efficient media playback."

WWDC 2008 continues through Wednesday, June 11, 2008.

Streaming Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues