Why No iPhone Updates? The Tablet, Perhaps.

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giant_iphone_640It’s been over three months since Apple last updated the iPhone OS to version 3.1.2. And while that’s not an unheard of amount of time between updates, it is quite a bit of time to go without any word that a new update is coming soon. Why? It could be because Apple doesn’t want to tip its hand about any information about the upcoming tablet, a new report today suggests.

There hasn’t been an updated iPhone OS build because there’s too much tablet-related code/references in the OS and Apple obviously didn’t want that to leak. Oops,” is what Boy Genius Report says it is hearing from an Apple source it trusts. That news comes with a few other bits, including that the tablet’s multi-touch gestures are “out of control,” that it’s powered by an ARM processor, that it (obviously with the above information) runs on the iPhone kernel, and that it’s basically an “iPhone on steroids.”

The last description seems to be a popular one these days. The Nexus One was first described as an “iPhone on beautifying steroids” by someone last month prior to its launch. For what it’s worth, I ended up disagreeing with that. But if anyone is capable of making a device that can live up to such a billing, it would be Apple. And that description also points to something we first said over a year ago: that the tablet could be like a large-form iPod touch. Of course, they use iPhone rather than iPod touch, but the core idea seems interchangeable. Or maybe Boy Genius’ tipster is suggesting that the tablet will have some sort of wireless connectivity built-in — something which has been rumored plenty of times by now.

This most recent report also goes along with much of what we reported hearing back in May of last year. That included information that the tablet OS was likely based on the iPhone OS. And that it likely used an ARM processor, rather than a more powerful Intel or even Intel Atom chip. We were worried about the prospects of an ARM chip being able to power Flash video, but who knows, if Apple is sticking close to their iPhone roots with the tablet, maybe they won’t even allow Flash on the thing. And this latest report also notes that this ARM chip in the tablet would be “incredibly fast,” and that could well go along with information VentureBeat heard in July that Apple had the team it acquired from PA Semi working on a special chip that would be just for the tablet.

In terms of the tablet OS, that remains a big mystery. It seems a pretty good bet at this point that it will not be running a full version of OS X. Not only might that be a problem using a presumably low-power chip, but it seems like full OS X might be overkill for a device that likely won’t be meant (yet) to do everything a traditional computer can. Others have hypothesized that the tablet won’t run a straight-up version of the iPhone OS either. And that makes sense as well given that the tablet will have a much larger screen and would presumably be capable of more than an iPhone. A variation of the iPhone OS seems like the best bet. And if that’s true and it’s meant to play nice with the iPhone and iPod touch, it’s probably likely that there are code hints in the latest iPhone OS builds that point to the tablet.

For what it’s worth, we’ve heard that iPhone OS 4.0 is definitely in the works and coming soon (something which should be no surprise at all). In the past, Apple has revealed the SDK for its new iPhone OS’ around March, so developers have time to work with it before its released to the public in the summer alongside a new device. But if the tablet OS is closely tied to the iPhone OS, it could certainly unveil a new SDK at the rumored event later this month.

Boy Genius also thinks it has a model number on the tablet: K48AP. Recent reports have indicated that there might be two variations of the device, so it’s not clear which that one would be. But that seems awfully specific for it to be coming from nowhere.

Finally, here’s another video supposedly showing off the tablet OS. Yes, this is almost undoubtedly fake, but it does go along with the other ones from over the Summer. This seems to suggest that the tablet will run iPhone OS apps straight-up, in smaller windows, almost as if they were widgets. This has also been hypothesized a bunch, and might be a good idea if Apple wants to take advantage of the over 100,000 iPhone apps already out there. Again, the video is likely fake, but the concept may not be that far off.

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