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Apple to unveil iPhone 3.0 software at March 17th event

Apple on Thursday announced plans to hold a special media event for journalists on its Cupertino-based campus that will offer a sneak preview of the next-generation iPhone operating system dubbed iPhone 3.0.

The event will take place at 10:00 a.m. Pacific time on Tuesday March 17th in the intimate setting of the Apple Town Hall — the same venue used to introduce the company's new unibody MacBooks last fall and the original iPhone Software Developers Kit (SDK) last March.

ArsTechnica was amongst the publications invited and has posted the following image from the email invite.

At this juncture, there's no indication that Apple will use the gathering to divulge details of next-generation iPhone handset hardware, which is expected to be unveiled several months later at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference or another event of its choosing.

iPhone 2.0

Last year, Apple staged a similar event to unveil its plans for iPhone 2.0, which was known in advance to include a new Software Development Kit for developers, but also added surprise Enterprise features, including support for push messaging and remote wipe using Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync as well as support for WPA2 and 802.1X wireless authentication protocols and Cisco IPsec Virtual Private Networking for secure remote access.

When the iPhone 2.0 software was actually released in July, Apple also included support for its own push services as part of the .Mac rebranding of MobileMe, added extensive language support for global sales, and added geotagging to its camera application. Seven software updates have been released in the months since then.

What to expect in iPhone 3.0

At last year's WWDC, Apple announced plans to provide a Push Notification Server for third party apps, allowing developers to send updates to their users' phones through central servers operated by Apple. The new system was intended in part to account for the fact that third party apps are not allowed to operate in the background; the notification system would allow the apps to alert the user of new messages or outside changes without actually listening for them itself, a task that would be handled by the iPhone system software instead.

The Push Notification Server was expected in September but never arrived; support was included in a developer beta before being later pulled, making it a obvious candidate for inclusion in iPhone 3.0. Parallel efforts to add push messaging in the forthcoming Snow Leopard Server may have been part of the reason for the delay.

Apple also released updates for Core Location to support determining the cardinal direction and velocity of an iPhone 3G using GPS, features required for providing turn by turn driving directions. Apple may leave that area to third party developers, or could enhance directions within Maps to support turn by turn features itself. A year ago, Apple filed a patent for the concept of server generated direction and map packages called podmaps.

Apple has already added traffic overlays and transit and walking directions to Maps based on Google's service, as well as Street View, a feature Google first debuted in showing off the mapping capabilities of its Android platform.

iPhone 3.0 wish list

A variety of other features may also make it into iPhone 3.0, including support for advanced Bluetooth profiles outside of the basic hands free and mono headset. Existing iPhones have high speed Bluetooth hardware capable of supporting A2DP stereo headsets, a software feature Apple has already delivered for desktop users in Mac OS X Leopard. Other Bluetooth profiles could enable iPhone users to quickly beam files to each other (such as address book vCards) or support the use of Apple's own Nike+ (were it to supply a Bluetooth version) or the company's wireless keyboard, which could turn the smartphone into a basic netbook replacement for business travelers.

Apple could also add support for a Dashboard-like layer of user-creatable widgets built using its existing DashCode app from HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, enabling users without Cocoa programming skills to build or install widget apps that could all run together without the launching delay of a full blown iPhone app. This would also take the wind out of the sails of the Palm Pre's new webOS, which is designed to 'multitask' multiple simple widget at once rather than running heavy duty applications. The ability to run self contained web applications, if only just within the phone's Safari, is also a distinct possibility, given the existing support in the desktop flavor of Safari and the iPhone's existing support for HTML 5 features.

Other features Apple has already alluded to or depicted in its patent filings include a global information page that shows updates such as incoming messages and alert updates on the wake screen for quick reference; global search features; a copy and paste mechanism; support for mobile syncing of playlists and file information from a home computer's iTunes library and then only downloading specific songs when requested; improved push features, including support for syncing tasks and notes; and "Back to My Mac" support for accessing remote files.