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Apple reveals Game Center social network

New iPhone OS 4 features include multitasking, a unified inbox and new iAd service

Apple has revealed a new games-focused social network service called Game Center as part of its preview of the new iPhone OS 4 software.

Game Center allows developers to create apps with the ability to invite friends to play a game, start a multiplayer game through a matchmaking service and track achievements and high scores on an online leaderboard. The new service will be available later this year.

All these features are currently offered by a range of competing third party apps, but Game Center will create a centralised system and offer a standard set of APIs.

Apart from the benefits of standardisation this also represents a rare intervention by Apple itself in promoting increased game functionality and may indicate a growing interest in the games market by the company.

Other features of the OS 4 software include the long-awaited addition of multitasking for third party apps, folders to better organise apps and a unified inbox for e-mail.

"iPhone OS 4 is the fourth major release of the world's most advanced mobile operating system," said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. "We’re delivering over 100 new features, including multitasking, folders, a unified inbox, deeper Enterprise support, and an iPhone version of our iBooks reader and online iBookstore."

Also unveiled at the same press event was iAd, Apple's new mobile advertising platform. The technology will allow for full screen video and interactive ad content without the need to leave an open app and allowing the user to return at any time.

Apple will sell and serve the ads, with developers receiving an industry standard 60 per cent of iAd revenues.

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David Jenkins