Apple iOS 4.3 Readying for December Launch: Reports

Apple will push through an iOS 4.3 update in December, according to new reports, with a subscription-billing capability for apps.

Apple could launch iOS 4.3 in a few weeks, following closely on its iOS 4.2 update for mobile devices.

According to the blog MacStories, itself quoting an unnamed "reliable source," Apple is building iOS 4.3 to include not only the usual maintenance tweaks and bug fixes, but also "subscription billing APIs." The update could also improve AirPlay, which enables wireless content streaming from Apple mobile devices to Apple TV and supported speakers.

Rumors of subscription-billing apps have come alongside news that Apple and News Corp are preparing to launch an iPad-only newspaper, The Daily, in early 2011.

News Corp magnate Rupert Murdoch seemed to confirm details of the publication in a Nov. 9 interview with The Australian Financial Review. "I'm starting a paper in six weeks," he reportedly said. "It will only be seen on tablets. It will only employ journalists-and maybe eight to 10 technicians."

John Gruber at Daring Fireball believes that Apple and News Corp will schedule The Daily's formal unveiling for early December. "The date I've heard is Dec. 9, but that's a Thursday, which would be somewhat unusual for an Apple press event," he wrote in a Nov. 22 posting. "My guess is that they're telling people Dec. 9 but it might slip back to Tuesday or Wednesday the week after."

If that information proves correct, and if a subscription-centric iOS 4.3 is linked to The Daily's distribution model, then it follows that iOS 4.3 would release in early December.

Murdoch also told The Australian Financial Review that the newspaper would require a base circulation of around 800,000 readers paying $1 a week-something he implied could be easily accomplished: "By the end of next year there will be 30 to 40 million iPads. I believe every single person will eventually have one, even children."

Periodicals and newspapers remain a chief focus of both tablet PCs and e-readers, as they offer a steady revenue stream for both device manufacturers-which take a cut of the action-and publishers.

Apple released its iOS 4.2 update Nov. 22, introducing features such as multitasking, Game Center and folders to the iPad. "Once again, the iPad with iOS 4.2 will define the target that other tablets will aspire to, but very few, if any, will ever be able to hit," Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrote in a statement posted on Apple's corporate Website.

The iPad represents a substantial source of revenue for Apple, which sold 4.19 million of the devices in its fiscal 2010 fourth quarter. Bernstein Research analyst Colin McGranahan estimated in October that 2011 revenues for the device will reach $9 billion.