What Will Apple Announce At WWDC? Less Developer News, More Consumer Treats, New MacBook Pro – Forbes
Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference opens in less than twenty-four hours with the traditional keynote from Tim Cook and his team. It’s an opportunity for Apple to talk directly to its developer base, but it’s also a time that it can speak directly to the public on its own terms. What can we expect to see tomorrow?
It’s worth noting that although this is a Developer Conference, some of the major announcements that are focused on developers have been ‘pre-announced’ by Apple through press releases this weekend – Highlighting the work of Swift Playgrounds to allow developers to work with the likes of Lego Mindstorms, Parrot drones and Sphero toys is the sort of meat and potatoes that would normally make up a WWDC presentation while the flag waving landmark of $70 billion paid out to developers would normally be a big moment in itself.
All of which suggests to me that Apple is clearing the decks for something bigger. Given the rough time it has faced in the past few months over its consumer facing hardware, the mea culpa it was forced to make over the Mac Pro and the increased competition it faces on all the consumer facing markets, the WWDC keynote is going to bias towards significant product launches and updates, rather than a two-hour festival of ‘our developers are brilliant’
Let’s be clear, Apple has a tempo to its year, and June’s WWDC traditionally has a software focus. That means new versions of iOS and macOS are going to be on display. In the case of the former this should give us some indication of what to expect from this year’s flagship iPhone. There is talk of some form of augmented reality being featured in the code, but Apple seems to be rolling back its immediate ambitions of transparent iPhones and AR headsets, at least during the 2017/18 product cycle.
Smaller changes to keep things looking fresh are expected, so watch for a ‘dark mode’ switch in the UI (which will help tremendously with the battery drain that a white screen on an OLED screen requires) and more integration of the Apple Pencil, perhaps bringing it to the new iPhone.
App wise expect to see more hooks for streaming Video, perhaps though the Apple Music (both ‘Carpool Karaoke’ and ‘Planet of the Apps’ are debuting this fall, so the mechanism to watch them on the handsets needs to be debuted).
There’s going to be less on offer for macOS. Apple sees iOS as the future and while there will be new code for the desk-bound systems, it’s more likely to see internal updates to accommodate new chip technology (i.e. to retain stability and parity with the new platform) and updates the software to promote more cloud-based activities and tie users closer to the ecosystem (such as a switch to the new Apple File System that the iPhone has recently received).
Improvements in Siri are likely (watch for third-party app support) and ‘shiny’ tweaks to include the touch bar in more first-party apps will be on show, but I’m not looking for any significant changes or updates.
Both tvOS and watchOS are still growing and developing so progress should be expected here, but perhaps more in terms of frameworks for new ventures than actual UI or process changes. tvOS will also need to be ready for Apple’s streaming shows, while watchOS may pick up more health and fitness tools following the patent settlement with Nokia.
Hardware wise the updates to the MacBook machines have been well-trailed. Apple’s decision to go with Intel’s sixth-generation chipset when it launched the new MacBook and MacBook Pro machines in October 2016 has left the macOS laptops at a disadvantage compared to the latest Windows 10 machines using the seventh-generation Kaby Lake chipset.
Expect the MacBook Pro, MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, and the MacBook to all pick up the Kaby Lake chips and some associated bumps in specifications. That’s enough to keep pace with the Windows 10 competition, but a lot of early adopters are going to look at their recent purchases and feel aggrieved. As for the touch bar, a new wireless keyboard with a touch bar is very likely, and opens up the UI to more users (and therefore a wider developer potential).
The MacBook Air is going to be more interesting. I get the feeling Apple is ready to put this family out to pasture and leave the MacBook as the entry-level machine… but sales of the MacBook Air have remained high. It’s no longer the cutting edge, so the bill of materials will be at its smallest. Apple can refresh the specifications and continue to sell the Air for another six months at a minimum, so watch for a quiet bump for the former golden child.
Apple’s recent filings for trademarks on other Mac machines suggest that something could happen with the iMacs, Mac Minis, and Mac Pros. While it would be nice to see these machines brought up to date alongside the laptops, it’s more likely these measures are to allow new macOS branding to be applied to the hardware as the software is updated.
As for a new iPhone, Apple likes to announce the new family in September, after developers have enough time with the new variant of iOS to update their third-party apps. We can draw inferences of the new hardware from the updated iOS, but in terms of seeing the new curved-screen flagship, we’ll have to wait until September. But if you want an outside bet, an update to the iPhone SE could be a nice ‘one more thing’ to keep interest in the smaller smartphone high.
Watch for an update to the iPad Pro as well. Lots of talk about the new 10.5 inch model that fits in the same physical footprint as the current 9.7 inch screen design and a retail release shortly after being announced at WWDC would make it an attractive option for the ‘Back to School/College’ market at the end of the summer.
Then you have Siri. It’s likely going to feature heavily in the software updates across the four platform strands, but the rise of standalone speakers for Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant could see Apple react to the competition to launch its own digital AI through a speaker. There are suggestions that the Siri Speaker is already in production but that doesn’t mean it will go on sale immediately after WWDC. Apple could follow the iOS/iPhone cadence of announcing the software and SDKs at WWDC ahead of a September retail release.
The WWDC keynote starts at 10am Pacific this Monday, the 5th of June. Any new or updated hardware should be announced during the expected two-hour long presentation. Keep watching Forbes’ Technology channel for all the news and analysis.
Follow me on Facebook. Find more of my work at ewanspence.co.uk, on Twitter, and Linked In. You should subscribe to my weekly newsletter of ‘Trivial Posts’.