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Monday, November 12, 2007, 10:35 am PT (01:35 pm ET)

iPhone to gain Apple Spotlight search in 2008

The next significant software update for Apple Inc.'s iPhone handset is unlikely to surface until early next year but will pack a system-wide search feature when it finally does arrive, according to information obtained by investment bank Piper Jaffray.

"We expect the next major update to come in February when the iPhone is opened to third-party applications," analyst Gene Munster wrote in a research report Monday. "As part of this update we also expect a contextual search feature, similar to Spotlight on a Mac."

Munster, who tapped his own sources for the tidbit, says the feature will enable users to easily locate contacts, emails, phone numbers, or calendar events through a single search interface on the touch-screen handsets.

In his report, which covered various "hot topics" of the month, the analyst also weighed in with comments on the impending launch of an ultra-portable Apple notebook, Starbucks and the iTunes Wi-Fi Store, and this past weekend's launch of the iPhone in Europe.

Specifically, he drew attention to Samsung's recent introduction of a 64GB solid state drive comprised of NAND Flash memory, which offers lower power consumption in a smaller form factor than traditional hard disk drives.

"We believe NAND Flash drive sizes have now reached capacities that Apple would consider large enough to include in a new MacBook model," he explained. "As a result, a new, smaller version of Apple's MacBook, and possibly an entirely new product, is more likely to be launched at MacWorld in early January."

Meanwhile, Munster and his team of supporting analyst were also able to test Apple's iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store experience, which has been available at New York City locations for a couple of months and just recently launched out of locations in San Francisco.

"[W]hile we do not believe it will have a direct impact on revenue, we believe its intangible value is significant.," he wrote. "Apple has paired itself carefully with another premium image, Starbucks, which further promotes Apple as a lifestyle brand."

Finally, the PiperJaffray analyst also commented on Friday's launch of the iPhone in Germany and the UK. While neither launch was able to match the magnitude of the U.S. roll-out back in June, the fact that iPhone is now available in those respective regions will go a long way towards helping Apple achieve its goal of selling 10 million units by the end of 2008, he said.

"Our checks in London at Apple's Regent Street store showed that iPhone hype was more subdued than the US launch," Munster told clients. "T-Mobile Germany, on Friday, announced the sale of 10,000 iPhones on launch day. To compare, assuming Apple sold 200,000 iPhones on day one (vs. 270,000 in first two days), in its first day of sales the company sold 1 iPhone for every 1,510 Americans, whereas Apple sold 1 phone for every 8,200 Germans.