As we noted earlier this week, the second beta of iPhone Software 3.0 included a new preference panel labeled "Store" that's located within the global Settings application. Initial reports suggested that this panel was bare, yielding no additional clues as to its function.
More recently, however, we were provided with an image from one tester who claims to have had (some) success identifying Apple's intentions for the panel. Apparently, it will allow users to sign into their iTunes account outside of the embedded App Store and mobile iTunes Store applications.
Additionally, the image suggests customers new to the iTunes ecosystem will be able to sign up for an iTunes account — which also facilities App Store purchases — directly from their multi-touch devices, forgoing the need to do so on a Mac or PC running iTunes.
Just how feasible this process may be, and what information Apple will require, remains unclear. That's because neither the login function nor the account creation function are operable at this time, and instead produce a popup dialog saying, "Cannot connect to iTunes Store."
Apple has said that it plans to release iPhone Software 3.0 sometime this "summer." The release will be a free upgrade for all iPhone owners but will cost $9.95 iPod touch users.
Update: iTunes account creation was actually mentioned during Apple's preview of iPhone Software 3.0 last month, some readers have pointed out.