Apple Inc. said it will reveal software plans for its popular iPhone handset on March 6, including new features aimed at business and details on allowing outside developers to create applications for the device.

"Please join us to learn about the iPhone software roadmap, including the iPhone SDK [Software Developers Kit] and some exciting new enterprise features," Apple said in an invitation to a news conference at its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters sent to reporters on Wednesday.

The addition of business applications could potentially signal a move to encroaching on territory occupied by smart phones such as Research in Motion's Blackberry handheld device.

A hit with consumers for its sleek design and web browsing capabilities, the iPhone has had a reputation for being less appropriate for business because of its lack of a physical keyboard and concerns its e-mail programs lack the necessary security features and functionality.

The move to open its software platform has been in the works since October 2007, when Apple CEO Steve Jobs first detailed the plans.

The iPhone so far runs only Apple software, though software made by outside developers can be accessed through the web.

Jobs wrote in a letter posted on the Apple website in October that the delay in allowing third-party applications to run on the phone was to ensure the device's security.

"There have been serious viruses on other mobile phones already, including some that silently spread from phone to phone over the cell network," he wrote. "As our phones become more powerful, these malicious programs will become more dangerous. And since the iPhone is the most advanced phone ever, it will be a highly visible target."

Apple Inc. shares rose by $5.46, to $128.42, on Thursday in early trading on Nasdaq, a rise of more than four per cent.

The iPhone, which launched in the United States in June 2007 and has made its debut in a number of European countries, is still not available through a wireless carrier in Canada.

Some Canadians, however, have been able to purchase grey market versions of the device that are "unlocked" and thus free to run on Rogers' wireless network, which uses compatible technology.