It’s that time of year again! Monday, June 2nd marks the opening of Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC). As always, the festivities commence with Tim Cook’s keynote presentation at 10am PST from San Francisco’s Moscone West. Rumors have been buzzing around for months about what Apple has in store for us during the three major launch events this year; WWDC is the first of those. I’ve sifted through all the rumors and come up with my list of the things we might see announced on Monday morning.
1. iOS 8
Like last year, Apple will be releasing the latest version of iOS to developers to begin testing it for bugs and making sure their apps are compatible. After the major redesign that came with iOS 7, little visual change is expected for iOS 8. For developers, expect to hear an emphasis on making your apps “resolution independent” so that your app layout is the same regardless of the size or resolution of the screen it’s on (since we’re likely getting a larger-screen iPhone in the fall). Some have speculated that we might get split-screen multi-tasking like a standard PC, but this seems very unlikely at this point in time. It might get an announcement, but they won’t be demoing it. We’ll definitely here about some improvements for both Siri and Maps. Siri will be getting a shot in the arm thanks to the integration of Shazam for song identification (with “buy” links back to iTunes). Maps will finally gain transit directions, as well as more points of interest. An interesting addition will be a standalone app for iTunes Radio and new apps to correspond to the Mac apps Preview and TextEdit. One of the biggest additions expected is a health app, Healthbook. This app will gather health-related data from the M7 co-processor in the iPhone 5S, as well as another expected announcement….
Rumors have been swirling about what the iWatch is going to look like. No one knows for sure as this has been kept very tightly under wraps. We’ll likely see a standard wristwatch with a round face made out of sapphire crystal (which is actually what some watch-faces are already made out of). We might not see a demonstration of it, but it should be announced right alongside iOS 8. The iWatch will include a slew of biosensors to feed health data of the wearer to the Healthbook app on his or her iPhone running iOS 8. While rumors say that it will run the full version of iOS (instead of the gimped version that the iPod nano runs), this seems very unlikely. A watch does not need access to the App Store or a web browser. The watch functions will be mainly to provide sensor data and act as an extension of your iPhone’s notifications, as well as being an actual watch you can use to tell time. None of that requires the “full” version of iOS. Expect at least a couple of days of battery life and a 1.3-1.5″ display.
3. OS X
Last year, Apple’s summer emphasis was on getting everyone ready for the transition to iOS 7. Summer 2014 will be all about the next version of OS X. Codenamed “Syrah” (seemingly to throw everyone off), Apple will continue the California landmarks naming scheme by naming the successor to Mavericks after one of the state’s greatest natural marvels, Yosemite. The number, on the other hand, is something I feel is up in the air. Current rumors number the next version as OS X 10.10 (read “OS ten, ten point ten”). This seems rather silly. At some point, Apple must move past 10 and “take it to 11″ (I’m coining that phrase first so I can sue Apple later, jk loling); now is as good a time as any. While I don’t think Apple will move to calling it OS XI, I do think Apple will call it OS X 11 Yosemite. Another possibility that I haven’t heard anyone talk about is that they will simply call it OS X, no more number. Similar to their move with the 3rd-gen iPad (the “new iPad”), this may be a better fix for the eventual number issue, while probably causing some confusion when comparing versions of OS X (“wait…is Yosemite a more recent version than Sonoma, or is Mojave the newest version?”). In terms of the actual OS changes, almost nothing is known outside the walls of 1 Infinite Loop. We might see a “flatter” design like iOS 7, but anything’s possible with Jony Ive in charge of the design!
4. Mac Mini
While every other Mac has been upgraded to Intel’s latest Haswell-series processors, the Mac Mini has been stuck on its Ivy Bridge processors since October 2012. Even with no obvious signs, I believe Apple will finally update the Mini with new Haswell processors and Thunderbolt 2. Apple has learned to not leave its products cold for very long (like it did with the Mac Pro). There likely won’t be any other changes, besides a possible switch to flash storage like in every other Mac (except the iMac). A switch to flash storage could mean a slight redesign. More than likely, this will just be a quick announcement of the processor and Thunderbolt updates.
Evidence was found in the latest OS X 10.9.4 beta that mentions new iMac models. This likely refers to the rumored “low-cost iMac” as well. Customers love the iMac and they’ve been clamoring for a cheaper entry point for a complete desktop Mac. The beta contains 3 plist files that mention new iMacs, one without a display. This “headless” iMac could either be a rebranding of the Mac Mini, or it could be the “Mythical Midrange Mac Minitower” that has eluded Apple customers (my own speculation). The minitower actually makes more sense than it ever has. When Apple redesigned the Mac Pro, it left a gaping whole in its desktop Mac product line. Every Windows desktop comes in a box that allows you to upgrade the internal components with relative ease. Up until the late 2013 redesign, the Mac Pro filled this market for Apple, even if it was mainly aimed at creative professionals who needed to add more hard drives or expansion cards for specific functionality. A Mac minitower would provide the processing and graphical horsepower of an iMac, without the requirement of buying a display and with the ability to add internal hard drives or PCIe cards. By not including a display, Apple could sell the minitower for around the same price as the current, high-end Mac Mini ($799) and give customers a fairly powerful machine that they can use with whatever display they want!
6. Home Automation
One of the smaller announcements we might see is that of a home automation standard. Like Apple’s MFi program for quality iPod, iPhone and iPad accessories and cables, this would simply be a set of manufacturer’s guidelines and an API for developers so that products would be inter-compatible. Everything from your thermostat to the door locks would all be controllable from your iPhone. This may not be quite ready, but Apple might give us a sneak peek of this to get developers excited.
But Paul, when can I buy/download these awesome products?
I’m glad you asked. Here’s what you can expect to hear on Monday:
iOS 8- Apple will say “in the fall”. Based on previous years, it’ll be available for download on September 17th.
iWatch- Since all evidence points to the iWatch not quite being finalized, Apple will say “later this year” (like it did with the redesigned Mac Pro). Depending on the progress made, we could see an update on its status at the September iPhone event.
OS X Yosemite- Like the release of Mavericks, Yosemite will see a release at the October event when the rest of the Mac lineup is refreshed.
Mac Mini & iMac- These should be available immediately after the keynote finishes and the online store goes live again.
I look forward to watching the keynote live this year to follow along with what should be an exciting event! Watch out for a “surprise” appearance by new Apple executives Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. We won’t hear anything more about Beats this time (besides an acknowledgment of the acquisition), but I wouldn’t be surprised if they tease us a little about the eventual integration of Beats Music into iTunes Radio.
The magic starts tomorrow morning at 10am! Apple is streaming video of the keynote on their website and the Apple TV, and many tech blogs are doing live-updating streams as well. I’ll be live tweeting the keynote here and tweeting major updates here (for those that don’t care for a play-by-play. Also, follow me on Twitter!).