Thursday New Tools Feature: Apple Stays Ahead of the Curve

For those of you who didn't spend all of Monday simultaneously watching four different tech liveblogs, here are some of the highlights from Apple's WWDC 2009:

There were a lot of exciting announcements for Apple geeks like myself ($29 upgrade to 64bit Snow Leopard OS with free Exchange support! 7 hours of battery life for the new MacBooks!), but probably the biggest news for most people is the next-generation iPhone. Apple's new iPhone, dubbed the "3GS" (the S is for speed, apparently), will be available on June 17th in 16 and 32 GB flavors ($199 and $299, respectively). The 3GS includes a 3 megapixel camera (see sample picture at right), compared to the old 2 MP camera, and the new camera also features autofocus, tap focus, and video recording. It also includes a built-in compass, voice dialing, and a faster processor.

The most important of these upgrades is the processor, the part which gives the 3GS its "S." The new 600MHz (same speed as the Palm Pre) processor makes this iPhone about twice as fast when running many applications, and its graphic processor supports OpenGL ES 2.0, while the 3G only supports ES 1.1. This means that the new iPhone will be able to run some pretty cool games in the future which won't be available on the old one.

Owners of the old iPhone will still be able to download the new 3.0 OS, which will come standard on the 3GS phones. Version 3.0 adds many things that iPhone users have been griping about, such as cut and paste, MMS (immediately on most carriers, late summer on ATT here in the states), landscape keyboard mode, and tethering (except on ATT, again), as well as push notification support and developer support for accesories and external devices.

This last bit in particular is big news. Here are a few examples of apps Apple showed off at WWDC 2009, courtesy of engadget:

The new Zipcar app users GPS to find where you are and shows you all of the Zipcar locations year you. You can then tap on any location to see a list of available cars, their specs and pricing, reserve one, and even unlock it from your phone.

They also showed a demo of TomTom's slick new turn-by-turn navigation app and car kit, which effectively renders standalone GPS units obsolete and irrelevant.

Finally, one of the coolest apps in the demo takes advantage both of the new exteranal device support and push notification to do something really remarkable and, for lack of a better word, awesome. The app, from Airstrip Technologies, allows doctors to receive a patient's information on their iPhone. So, the way this works is that a patient has, say, a heart monitor attached to their iphone. This sends information that the doctor can check on their iPhone at any time. If something abnormal happens, the program can send a push message to the doctor. It can also send lab info to the doctor; in the demo, the doctor receives a notification that says "New lab result for David Smith: Critical Value - Potassium level under 3.0" The doctor can then tap "view" to see all of the patient's stats (see picture).

Apple also unveiled an awesome e-reader app with an extensive book store and an app that connects your iPhone to your amp and guitar and allows you to choose different effects, amp sounds, and even different "virtual" tunings. All of this on a single device. The mobile revolution continues to accelerate, and the impact it will have on our lives over the next decade is difficult to overstate.