Apple unveils new iPhone without Steve Jobs

Apple aims to make hot-selling iPhones even more appealing, premiering a speedier new model complete with a video camera and slashing the price of its predecessor to 99 dollars.

Apple vice-president of marketing Phil Schiller made the announcements on Monday at an annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco bereft of any sign of the firm’s renowned chief executive, Steve Jobs.

Schiller said the new iPhone 3GS, the first model to capture video, will be available on June 19.

“The ‘S’ stands for speed, because this is the most powerful iPhone we’ve ever made,” Schiller said. “What is inside is entirely new.”

He said a 16-gigabyte iPhone 3GS would cost $199 while the 32-gigabyte model would cost $299.

The price of an original eight-gigabyte iPhone 3G dropped to $99 from $199 as of Monday.

Schiller also said a next-generation iPhone 3.0 operating system will be released worldwide on June 17 as a free upgrade to owners of the smartphones.

Apple also reported it has sold more than 40-million iPhones and iPod Touch devices, which are essentially iPhones without cellphone capabilities. Sales of applications for the devices reportedly passed a billion in April.

Enhancements crafted into the iPhone 3.0 operating system include voice command, downloading rented videos, and customisation to additional languages including Arabic, Hebrew, and Korean.

A new “Find My iPhone” feature lets people use an Apple online Mobile Me service to locate lost or stolen devices.

“It will show you on a map where your phone is,” said senior vice-president of iPhone software Scott Forstall.
“You can send it a message and it plays an alert sound whether or not you left it in silent mode.”

The feature also lets people remotely erase all data from lost or stolen iPhones. The new operating system also lets iPhones connect to one another wirelessly for communal activities such as playing games.

“If I was Sony, that would keep me awake,” Silicon Valley analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group said of iPhones being a threat to the Japanese firm’s PSP handheld gaming devices.

“There is a real risk that Apple could kill the PSP.”

There was no mention of reducing service plan prices that “are a challenge for people,” noted analyst Ken Dulaney, vice-president of mobile computer research at Gartner.

“Apple has zero control of the telecom service carriers,” said Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin.

“They took smartphones up another notch and are making it harder for competitors to catch up with them. They completely redid the guts inside the iPhone.”

Apple hit a disappointing note with an otherwise enthusiastic audience when it announced that its new Snow Leopard computer operating system would not be available until September.

People using the previous generation software will only have to pay $29 to upgrade.

A “near-final” version is being given to developers at the conference so they can begin tailoring programs for the system.

“Apple engineers have made hundreds of improvements with Snow Leopard,” said Bertrand Serlet, Apple senior vice-president of software engineering.

Snow Leopard lets users spell with Chinese characters on MacBook touchpads and includes a new version of Apple’s web browser, Safari.

Safari software made available on Monday is “multiples” times faster than Microsoft’s latest Internet Explorer 8 Web browser, according to Schiller.

Apple on Monday also launched upgraded MacBooks while cutting prices on its historically high-end laptop line.

Improved MacBooks could be customised with beefier processors and as much as 500 gigabytes of storage space. Prices on the enhanced MacBook line range from $1 199 to $2 299.

Apple’s upgrades, and the timing of releases, position the company to fend off competition from the Palm Pre as well as Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 7 operating system, according to analysts.

Approximately 5 200 software developers from more than 50 countries registered to attend the sold-out conference, according to Apple.

The presentation featured humor and barbs aimed at rival Microsoft, but no sign of 54-year-old Jobs, who has been on a medical leave of absence since January.

Apple has been secretive about Jobs’s health since he underwent an operation in 2004 for pancreatic cancer but has been adamant that he is returning to the company’s helm at the end of this month.

“What bothers me is why they can’t have Steve do a cameo, or appear by telepresence,” said Enderle.

“That would have made all the difference in the world in terms of excitement at the event. It makes me wonder what Steve looks like.” - AFP

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