Apple took the wrappers off its iPhone OS 4 software tonight, with big features including multi-tasking, the iAd mobile advertising service, and a social games network called Game Center.

The iPhone 4.0 software will ship to consumers this summer, although developers are getting a preview version tonight. It will come to iPad later in the Autumn.

Multi-tasking works as expected: apps can run in the background, and be switched between via a double-press of the iPhone Home button.

Examples shown tonight included music app Pandora, VoIP app Skype, and social location app Loopt.

Meanwhile, the new ‘Game Center’ will let games developers include leaderboards, multiplayer matching, achievements and player profiles in their iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad games.

At a stroke, Apple appears to have obliterated the business models of companies like Aurora Feint and Scoreloop – at least on iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. They may now be forced to accelerate their moves to other smartphone platforms.

iAd was also unveiled tonight: it’s Apple’s own in-app mobile advertising network, with the ads taking the form of mini-apps in their own right, complete with video and interactivity.

Apple will sell and host the ads, and app developers will keep 60% of the revenues. They’ll be HTML5, rather than Flash. There was no news on whether this means a ban on ad units from other networks like AdMob, Google Adsense, though.

iPhone OS 4 will also see Apple’s iBooks e-books store come to iPhone and iPod touch, with iPad owners able to stop reading a book on that device and pick up on the same page on iPhone (and vice versa). Very smart!

Meanwhile, the new OS has more than 1,500 new APIs for developers to get their teeth into, including those listed above.

Apple also gave a raft of stats at the event:

– It has now sold more than 450,000 iPads in the US, and 3.5 million iPad apps have been downloaded. Plus 600,000 e-books.

– There are more than 185,000 apps on the App Store now, and the store has passed the four billion downloads milestone.

– More than 85 million iPhones and iPod touches have been sold globally.

There was no ‘And Finally’ moment to show off a new iPhone, but CEO Steve Jobs did deliver some swipes at Adobe – giving a flat “no” in response to a question about whether Flash might make its way into iPhone 4.

Meanwhile, he criticised the openness of Google’s Android platform. “There’s a porn store for Android. Anyone can download them. You can, your kids can. That’s just not a place we want to go.”

Thanks for heads up:

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