Apple has announced plans to launch an Xbox Live-style gaming network for iPhone and iPod Touch, and later, iPad. The network, called Game Center, will be "previewed" with iPhone OS 4.0 this summer.
The network will offer services to familiar to users of Xbox Live, PlayStation Network and Steam: centralised friend tracking, matchmaking, leaderboards and achievements.
The announcement was made at a presentation on OS 4.0 at Apple's California headquarters, reported on by Gamasutra, among others. Game Center will arrive in "preview" form with OS 4.0 in the summer, but no firm release date for the service was given. OS 4.0 will arrive for the iPad in the autumn.
Although no further specifics of Game Center were announced, comments made by Apple's iPhone software chief, Scott Forstall, suggest Apple is unlikely to charge for the service.
"There's no money to be gained or no competitive advantage to be gained from having your own social gaming network," he said. "One of our goals with [Game Center] is to help the viral spread... You can see your friends, your friends can challenge you to a game you don't have and you can immediately download that [game]... And we added gifting in this OS so you can give it to someone you love."
The major new feature of iPhone OS 4.0 is multitasking, allowing more recent devices - iPhone 3GS and third-generation iPod Touch - to run multiple programs at once. You'll also be able to organise your apps into folders, and developers will be able to push advertising into their apps.
Gizmodo has a full liveblog of the event.