Apple's newest iOS 4.3 updates will load a variety of new features onto the iPad, iPhone and other mobile devices-just as Google Android 3.0, code-named "Honeycomb," makes a hard charge at the tablet market. The constant software updating by Google and Apple suggests, yet again, that 2011 will be a year of seismic changes and fierce competition in the mobile market.
The iOS SDK 4.3 beta is available on Apple's developer Website. New capabilities include the ability to stream video to Apple TV via AirPlay, full-screen banners in the company's iAd platform and HTTP Live Streaming statistics.
The first iOS 4.3 beta, released in early January, included the Personal Hotspot, which lets up to five devices tether wirelessly to the iPhone and its 3G connection. Around a week later, Apple produced a second iOS 4.3 beta. According to the blog Apple Insider, itself citing the blog MacNotes.de, Apple is planning a February event that will "highlight the features of iOS 4.3" and possibly offer a first glimpse of the long-awaited second-generation iPad.
Whether that "iPad 2" glimpse comes to pass is something known only within the hallways of Apple headquarters. Apple Insider cautions that MacNotes.de "does not have an established track record with respect to Apple rumors." However, it's safe to assume the company is working furiously on ways to counter the rise of Android-based smartphones and tablets.
Android 3.0 was designed with tablets in mind. It features a retooled, big-screen-friendly virtual keyboard and a brand-new system bar along the bottom of the screen. Google spent time tinkering with the Web browser, which now offers tabbed browsing for multiple Web windows, and has optimized the software for applications running on larger screens. Google executives had roundly stated that the previous version, Android 2.2, was meant for smartphone-sized screens-a fact that did nothing to prevent Samsung and other manufacturers from installing the software on full-sized tablets.
Those features all seem tailor-made for combating Apple's iOS on its own terms, and raising the profile of Google's Apps Marketplace to the point where it can compete in the mindshare category with Apple's App Store.
Although the iPad is continuing its massive sales run among consumers, and iOS 4.2 contains features that have made it an increasing favorite among some business users, Android-based tablets are predicted to gain substantial market share this year. That threat alone is enough to leave Apple executives thinking hard about ways to stay prevalent in the very market the iPad helped popularize-hence iOS 4.3.