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iPhone 3.0 code hints at future Apple hardware

Two vague references within the iPhone OS 3.0 beta could be evidence that Apple has plans for that software that involve something beyond the iPhone or iPod Touch.

Apple could have more than the iPhone and iPod Touch in mind with the release of the iPhone OS 3.0 beta. Apple

It's probably safe to assume that if they really do exist, Apple's marketing group doesn't plan on letting the iProd and iFPGA ever hit the market under those names.

As developers have gotten their hands on the iPhone OS 3.0 beta released earlier this week, they've started to turn up interesting tidbits while splashing around in the code. Ars Technica reports that an iPhone developer has uncovered references buried deep in the OS code to two possible Apple products: the iProd and the iFPGA.

For the uninitiated, it's possible to find references to Apple products inside code strings in the iPhone OS, such as the iPod 2,1 reference that correctly predicted the arrival of a new iPod Touch, and a more recent reference to an iPhone 2,1 model that seemed to indicate another revision to that product would be arriving soon. The iPhone 3G is listed as iPhone 1,2 in those code strings.

Now Steven Troughton-Smith claims to have found references to four new Apple products: iPhone3,1, iPod3,1, iFPGA, and iProd0,1. The iPhone and iPod references are self-explanatory (although it's not clear what happened to iPhone 2,1), but iFPGA and iProd are not.

The early speculation is that the iProd is the tablet-like device that has been rumored for quite some time as a possible second-half 2009 product from Apple. It makes sense that Apple would introduce a new naming and labeling convention for such a product, even if iProd isn't the name that passes final muster with the branding people. The 0,1 label could mean that it's not ready for prime time just yet, at which point it would get the 1,0 label as used on the original iPhones and iPod Touches.

FPGA is a chip-industry term for a "field-programmable gate array" chip, or one that can be configured to work in different ways after the manufacturing process is complete, unlike ASICs, or application-specific integrated circuits. Could this be what P.A. Semi is working on, a custom chip for a new type of phone or tablet that could be programmed with software to tackle different tasks? No one really seems to have any idea.

In any event, the code strings seem to indicate that Apple plans to run iPhone OS 3.0 on hardware other than an iPhone or iPod Touch. We'll just have to see what that turns out to be.