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It's Not The Hardware, Dummy, It's The iPhone OS

The most important announcement to come out of Apple's WWDC wasn't the iPhone 3G S, instead it was the release date of the iPhone OS 3.0.

The rollouts at Apple's WWDC were numerous and included a new MacBook Pro, Apple slashing prices on notebooks, the Snow Leopard OS and, of course, the iPhone 3G S. But the most compelling product reveal at the conference surrounded the release date of the iPhone OS 3.0.

The hardware in Apple's iPhone 3G S seemed to get two major face lifts: a 3-megapixel camera capable of taking video and a storage size upgrade. Sure, Apple is claiming that the 3G S will blow the doors off the previous versions of the iPhone, but customers will have to wait until June 19 to find out for sure. The question is whether or not those hardware upgrades are significant enough to entice a user to spend the money -- $199 and $299 for a 16-GB or 32-GB version of the 3G S, respectively, with a subsidy from AT&T, of course -- on a new smartphone.

For Apple customers with the original version of the iPhone, the time is probably right -- and the contract is probably up -- making upgrading the device a no-brainer, assuming an individual is happy with the service and phone. But iPhone 3G users have to ask whether or not the camera and storage on the iPhone 3G S is worth the money.

Instead, the free iPhone OS 3.0 upgrade, first unveiled in March and given a release date yesterday, will have much more impact on the majority of users. After all, it is the iPhone OS that gives developers more than 1,000 APIs. The operating system, not the iPhone 3G S hardware, allows for tethering. Even streaming video, which wouldn't be worth having without the new camera, doesn't happen if Apple doesn't upgrade the smartphone's software.

One of the slickest new features that drew cheers in the conference hall, Find My iPhone, a service for MobileMe members that locates lost smartphones through a Web browser and wipes its memory if it is stolen or unrecoverable, is a function of the upgraded OS.

A few features were finally included that, quite frankly, should have had iPhone users scratching their head at their exclusion in the first place, including support for MMS and landscape typing. Cut, copy and paste, also a feature users have been waiting for, is a bit different as it isn't a standard part of any other smartphone.

Again, those upgrades and new features are a direct result of the iPhone 3.0 operating system and not the hardware. The iPhone OS 3.0 will roll out to customers on June 17 and be a free update for current users, with iPod Touch users having to pay a fee.

And while the iPhone OS 3.0 didn't get the headlines the hardware did yesterday during the WWDC keynote, ultimately it will be the differentiator that continues to keep Apple pushing forward and leading the way in smartphone innovation.

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