The iPhone is due for a major operating system update, and this week Apple revealed what the iPhone OS 3.0 software (due to be distributed summer 2009) will allow users and developers to do.
In a nutshell: Plenty.
But even more importantly: New iPhone APIs offer exciting opportunities — especially for news orgs and other online publishers…
The real genius of Apple’s iPhone strategy has always been the application store. The app store what I like to think of as an entrepreneurial engine: good business not just for Apple, but for any people or organizations that think entrepreneurially.
iPhone Apps can be sold outright to users (like the Omnifocus iPhone app I rely on daily) for a direct revenue stream. However, even free iPhone apps can help build online businesses (including for news publishers, advertisers, or news-related services) by growing audience, increasing user engagement, or enabling additional features or services.
The latest iPhone software developer kit offers over 1000 new iPhone application programming interfaces. (Earlier, Tidbits contributor Will Sullivan explained why news orgs should use APIs.) Many news orgs like the New York Times already offer their own iPhone applications. But the new API’s just announced by Apple will allow whole new types of interaction with the iPhone and with iPhone applications. For instance, Apple notes:
- In-Application Purchase: “Users can purchase content or services from your application using the Store Kit framework.” Yankee Group analyst Carl Howe observed, “The biggest feature in Apple’s iPhone 3.0 is a cash register.”
- Maps in your Apps: “You can now embed maps within your applications using the new Map Kit framework.” Imagine a mobile map interface to your local news.
- Push Notification: “Alert your users of new information, even when your application isn’t running.” This could include breaking news headlines, relevant classified ads, event announcements, and more. And what if you coupled this with the embedded maps API? Maybe alerts could change based on the iPhone user’s location…
- Peer to Peer Connectivity: “Allows any application to communicate between devices [i.e., several people’s iPhones] using Bluetooth — no pairing required.” This could prove useful for enabling mobile coverage collaboration between professional or citizen journalists.
I’d strongly suggest that someone on the tech side of every news organization download the iPhone 3.0 beta SDK (enterprise developer program: $299) and start exploring the possibilities now. If you don’t already offer an iPhone app, this is a good time to start developing one — and you might even get it into the app store in time for the summer distribution of iPhone OS 3.0.
…And if you don’t think that the number of iPhone users is significant enough to warrant this effort, bear in mind that iPhone users tend to be power users of online and social media. Getting their attention through a well-planned app might yield surprising benefits to your news business and brand.