Apple’s iPhone OS4 release offers improved iBooks and new iAds service

Apple’s grip on the media business tightened this week with the release of its latest operating system update for the iPhone OS4. And as its mobile product line expands, its operating system has dropped the “Phone” from its name to become iOS4.

iOS4 is a free upgrade for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPads. It’s rumoured that another platform will be eventually added to the iOS family when Apple uses it to revamp its unsuccessful Apple TV set-top box.

Of note for publishers:

  • Apple is talking up its iBookstore as the third store platform, following the original iTunes and the App Store. It claims that, among the large publishers who’ve supported the iBookstore since launch on 3 April, sales through the iBookstore now represent 22% of their ebook sales.
  • The iBooks e-reading app has now been ported to the iPhone and iPod Touch.
  • The iBookstore now operates wirelessly, no PC required, and will syncronise your ebooks across multiple Apple devices. This includes your ebook library, the place you’re at in the ebook you’re reading and — a new feature — your bookmarks and annotations.
  • iBooks now reads PDFs as well as ePub formatted ebooks. This will make it useful as a reader for business documents as well as adding what is still a popular ebook format and might serve as a useful interim “quick and dirty” format for illustrated books and textbooks.
  • On the hardware front, a new iPhone model was announced which will improve the reading experience with a higher resolution, 960 x 640,  327 pixel per inch display and an extended battery life.
  • iOS4 will also see the launch on 1 July of Apple’s mobile advertising platform, iAds. iAds will open up a new source of income for app developers, potentially opening advertising to any of the quarter of a million apps. Apple will take 40% and return 60% to developers. In a show of strength, it signed up US$60 million of A-list advertisers to support the launch, a figure Apple claims is half of the entire projected mobile ad spend for the second half of 2010. One neat feature will be the ability to launch web ads from an in-app browser so that the user remains inside the application when viewing the advertiser’s website rather than being taken out of the app to launch the Safari web browser.

Finally, in what is becoming an unfortunate pattern in Apple’s announcements, a revised developer agreement takes aim at potential Apple rivals, locking them out of the App store. This time, Google appears to be the target with its competing mobile ad platform, AdMob. Google beat Apple this week by releasing the SDK (software development kit) for its in-app mobile advertising for the iPhone and iPad. The trouble is, in a move reminiscent of its ban on Adobe’s Flash platform on the eve of the iPad launch, Apple just changed the terms of its developer agreement, making it unlikely that any app developers will be able to incorporate AdMob ads without risking being banned from the App store.

More on the launch: See the Techcrunch summary of key points from the iPhone and iOS4 launch.