Apple unveils ad and game networks for iPhone

Steve Jobs, Apple chief executive, has unveiled advertising and game networks for the iPhone, iPad and iPad touch. They will be launched later this year with the 4.0 version of the operating system for the devices.

Speaking at a media event today at Apple’s Silicon Valley headquarters,  Mr Jobs said 450,000 iPads had been sold since the Saturday launch, there had been 3.5m downloads of iPad apps so far and 600,000 downloads from the iBooks store.

Full details as the new services and features were announced at the event are after the jump.

Mr Jobs said 4.0 would add seven “tentpole” features, starting with multitasking. Apple had designed it in a way to avoid significant battery drain and sluggish response times.

Tim Westergren, founder of the Pandora internet radio service, took the stage to demonstrate how music would now continue playing in the background when users switched to another app. A Skype executive showed how calls could be received on the VOIP service while using other apps and location using GPS was also demonstrated as being available when other apps were running. Files, such as photos, will continue to upload or download in the background.

Steve Jobs returned to the stage to announce a second major feature – folders. This is a better way to organise the scores of apps users download and then have trouble finding. Apps can be dragged and dropped onto one another to create folders such as “Games”. More than 2,000 apps can now be put on an iPhone, up from the original 148.

The third tentpole announced is enhanced mail – a unified inbox showing email from all your accounts and with threaded messages – similar to the Conversations feature in Gmail.

Fourth, iBooks – the iBooks app for the iPad will also be available on the iPhone and iPod touch.

Fifth, Enterprise – improved data protection, mobile device management, wireless application distribution – no need to plug into a PC and sync with iTunes.

Sixth, Game Center. This will enable users to challenge their friends or take advantage of automatic matchmaking. There will be leaderboards and “achievements”, similar to other online services such as Xbox Live. Availability is later this year on this service.

Seventh – iAd, Apple’s mobile advertising platform. Mr Jobs says most advertisements in developers’ apps “suck”. Apple has worked out a way to serve interactive and video ads within an app rather than taking users away from it. Developers will receive 60 per cent of the revenue from ads that Apple hosts and sells.

One big caveat from Mr Jobs about all this at the end of the presentation – iPhone 3G and iPod touch second generation and earlier will not run multitasking  due to hardware limitations. The iPad will get OS 4.0 in the autumn.