UPDATE: Check-out our live blog for the very latest WWDC updates
This morning in America - 6pm GMT - Apple will begin its annual developer’s conference, WWDC 2013 (Worldwide Developers Conference). Rumours, as ever, have been a-swirling around the internet, but one thing that seems certain is that WWDC will be focused on software, not hardware; platforms, not products.
It’s neither the time nor the place for major hardware releases, and traditionally Apple launches significant new products (say, a new iPhone or iPad) later in the year to take advantage of the seasonal sales rush.
This is also corroborated by Tim Cook’s comments at Apple’s quarterly earnings announcement in April, where the Apple chief promised that they were working on “amazing new hardware, software, and services that we can’t wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014.”
Reading between the lines this means no significant new products in June though updates will probably be featured, including a new Mac Pro – Apple’s professional-grade desktop that’s been untouched for a couple of years now; and possibly a new MacBook Air – especially likely considering the boosts to battery power that could be gained from integrating Intel’s new Haswell chips.
This will most likely be the keystone of WWDC, with the revamp centred on visually ‘flat’ design: the outlawing of skeuomorphs, the eradication of drop shadows, and a general move towards minimal thinking, and looking. There’s even been mocked-up screenshots based on what insiders have been able to describe, though frankly these illustrations- courtesy of 9to5mac - are unbearably awful.
The iPhone is being increasingly challenged by Samsung’s phenomenally successful Galaxy S line, and as well as continuing to up the ante with regards to hardware specifications, Samsung have been pushing ahead of Apple by simply offering more features – from a language translator to a fitness tracker.
The increasing personalisation of smartphone operating systems have also passed Apple by slightly, and it seems likely that they'll be looking to bring these features to the iPhone - think Windows Phone's personalised tiles for example - with big updates to iOS’s notification centre.
Apple also needs to open up the platform more to third-party developers. Better connectivity for Siri would allow voice control to be capitalised on, and having more companies’ apps as standard would also help. Twitter and Facebook were both incorporated last year, and this year it’s rumoured that Flickr and Tumblr may also be added.
Mac OS X 10.9
The other big software update for Apple will be to their desktop operating system. A banner at the conference center has shown a slim sans-serif X set against some sort of watery vegetation. As with iOS 7 we can certainly expect a cleaner, more minimalist design, but beyond this predictions are uncertain.
Apple might be bringing more of the mobile world to the desktop with possible additions of Apple Maps, and iBooks, and Siri apps. The latter would probably be the most striking addition. The Mountain Lion update brought dictation tools onboard, and using Siri to carry out routine tasks - say, booting up a certain set of programs with a keyword - could be a step ahead of Microsoft’s reworking of its desktop system with Windows 8, though oddly similar to their use of the Kinect.
A new streaming music service also seems pretty likely, with reports las week surfacing that all three major music labels are on board, allowing Apple to provide a free service to users supported by ads. The main advantage that Apple has over competitors such as Pandora is iTunes: a service that is trusted by users and that has already been using its ‘Genius’ feature to learn about individuals’ preferences and make targeted listening recommendations.
However, as good a service as this might be, it's still not a big enough change to get really excited about. If Apple really wanted they could just buy out Pandora, and unless they're doing something different with music streaming, this is likely to be just a nice feature and not world-changing. As with iBooks, it's really too much of a generic idea to impress.
‘One more thing’
The ‘one more thing’ portion of Steve Jobs’ keynote speeches were often where the most important products were revealed. Jobs would feign an end to the announcements before turning around, Columbo style, to deliver something new. These 'one more things' have included successes such as the iPod Mini and MacBook Pro, but also some a couple of turkeys – the U2 edition iPod and the Power Mac G4 Cube come to mind.
Jobs’ showmanship may be sadly absent from today’s announcement but it doesn’t mean that Apple won’t be able to bring out something surprising. A product along the lines of an iWatch or TV set are extremely unlikely, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be a couple of innovations outside of software for Apple to talk about.
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