Apple is set to preview a new version of its iPhone software, prompting speculation that a new iPhone may be in the works for summer release.

Next week Apple will introduce the version 3.0 of the iPhone operating system, along with new tools for building iPhone applications downloaded from the company's App Store. The last major upgrade to the OS, version 2.0, was released in July, 2008, along with the new iPhone 3G.

A Dow Jones Newswire story quoted one Wall Street analyst, who envisagess Apple offering a universal search capability - letting a user easily sift through email, contacts, and documents on the phone or on the web, similar to a feature being touted by Palm for its upcoming Palm Pre phone.

But there are some other possible, and certainly hoped-for, changes:

  •  "Tethering" which would let a laptop use a USB cable, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to connect to the iPhone, and then use the phone's cellular radio to surf the Internet (you can do this yourself with a jail-broken iPhone.
  • Push e-mail notification.
  •  Turn-by-turn directions.
  •  Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS).

CNET's Tom Krazit thinks Apple may introduce what he calls true background processing - the ability to run more than one application at once. That's something the Palm Pre and other platforms do offer.
Two interim OS releases have been made since last July. One was in November with version 2.2, which added support for Google Street Views, some user interface changes, and email improvements, among other things.

Reviewers at the time complained it still lacked a range of features important to enterprise users including on-device encryption, something better than four-digit numeric passwords, the ability to cut-and-paste, and synchronisation of notes or setting up calendar items with Microsoft Exchange controls. Many of those are leftover complaints stemming from the enterprise shortcomings evident with version 2.0.
A minor OS update was released in January.

The new software development kit could presage an array of changes with the Apple development community.