Apple's Jobs expected to reveal new iPhone

Apple's secrecy about product launches is legendary but when chief executive Steve Jobs takes the stage Monday the world may have already had a glimpse of what is expected to be the next iPhone.

Jobs is to be the keynote speaker at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, an annual event during which the gadget maker reveals its latest must-have devices.

This year's conference, which has attracted more than 5,000 developers of programs for Macintosh computers, the iPhone, the iPod and the iPad, carries less mystery than years past due to an Apple software engineer's unfortunate evening in a California beer garden a little over two months ago.

The engineer, Robert "Gray" Powell, lost a prototype of the next-generation iPhone while drinking at the Gourmet Haus Staudt near Apple headquarters and it ended up with a 21-year-old man who then sold it to technology blog Gizmodo.

According to Gizmodo, features of the new phone include a front-facing video camera for video conferencing and a better regular camera with a larger lens.

It reportedly has a flat back instead of curved back, is thinner than the previous model, the iPhone 3GS, and has a battery that is 16-percent larger.

Gizmodo, unsurprisingly, will not be in the audience when Jobs makes his keynote address at 10:00 am (1700 GMT). The technology blog said Apple has not responded to its requests to attend the June 7-11 WWDC.

Gartner analyst Van Baker said Gizmodo's revelations about the next iPhone had taken some of the shine off the event.

"I think the biggest challenge Apple's going to face is coming up with enough exciting news to have this truly get the market's attention," Baker said.

The front-facing video camera that will allow iPhone owners to have video chats with Macintosh computers or iPhone to iPhone "will probably be among the biggest news that we see," he said.

"I think there'll be some additional reveals on OS 4.0 (the latest iPhone operating system)," Baker added.

"We might see a new iPod Touch," the Gartner analyst told AFP. "Beyond that, I'm not sure because the iPad's new and the MacBook line - both the MacBook and the MacBook Pro - just had a significant refresh.

"So I'm not sure what else to expect from them other than OS4 announcements and a reveal of the new iPhone," he said.

Baker said he did not expect the new iPhone to be "exactly" what Gizmodo displayed but there would probably not be substantive differences.

"I'm sure they had variants of the design floating around and likely made the decision of which ones to manufacture within the last month or so," he said.

Kathryn Huberty of Morgan Stanley said Apple may announce a price cut for the iPhone. A 50-dollar drop in price could result in a 40-percent increase in demand, she estimated.

US wireless carrier AT&T sells the latest iPhone for 199 dollars and a year ago Apple slashed the price for its earliest model to 99 dollars.

Independent technology analyst Carmi Levy said the Gizmodo leak "took some of the surprise out of the event" but called it a "momentary diversion."

In any case, Apple, which has sold more than 50 million iPhones in three years, has taken an approach of "evolution and not revolution" when it comes to the touchscreen smartphone, Levy said.

"When upgrading its iPhone hardware, Apple's goal is never to hit it out of the park," he said. "Rather, the company's intent is to move the bar far enough to maintain its market-dominant position.

"To ensure it has enough new-feature gas in the tank for next year, it never gives customers everything they've asked for in any given year," he said.

"Instead, it includes just enough new features to keep the faithful faithful for another year. It's the ultimate form of controlled marketing, and Apple does it better than virtually any company on the planet."

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