It’s that time again, folks — geeks from around the globe (us included) are getting ready to descend on San Francisco’s Moscone Center for WWDC 2014. Once those doors open and the keynote starts, we’ll get to peek at the future of computing the folks in Cupertino have cooked up… though what exactly we’ll see remains veiled in secrecy. You can bet the show will be heavy on the software (like new versions of iOS and OS X), but if we’re lucky, a few hardware announcements should keep us all on our toes. Here’s a quick look at what we think Apple will (and might!) show off during its June 2nd address.
Those of you expecting a dramatic redesign like last year’s leap to iOS 7 will be disappointed. From what we’ve seen and heard, expect iOS 8 to be a refinement of the software already running on your phone, a sanding down of rough edges paired with a smattering of new features. Right now, the biggest of those additions might be meant to get you in better shape. 9to5Mac published images of Healthbook in March, and they depict a Passbook-esque interface dedicated to tracking and displaying your vital stats, from heart rate to blood pressure to activity. It’s not exactly clear where Apple is going to pull all this data from — an iPhone could give you a decent guess at your activity levels, but it’s not going to track your oxygen saturation or blood sugar without some additional hardware. Is Apple hinting at what its new iPhones will be capable of tracking? Maybe, but it may also signal a platform play where Apple draws on information collected by gadgets like the Fitbit or the Withings Pulse.
With any luck, Siri is going to get smarter too. It used to be that Siri could only peer into your apps and fire them up if Apple inked a deal with the companies that made them, but a report from The Information claims Apple is working on getting its virtual assistant to “understand” what those apps do so it can respond to your requests more substantially. A mobile payments system may be in the cards too if the Wall Street Journal is to be believed — Apple SVP Eddy Cue has apparently been taking meetings with tech industry bigwigs and talking about the company’s “interest in handling payments for physical goods and services on its devices.”
And then there are the slightly less consequential bits. Apple Maps may finally get a shot in the arm with improved support for walking and transit directions. Split-screen multitasking is reportedly in the cards for the iPad (though it may not be ready in time for the show), and iOS 8 will probably come with new TextEdit and Preview apps. Facebook just started bringing TV and music audio recognition to iOS and Android, but Apple’s reportedly teaming up with Shazam to bring similar audio smarts to iTunes.
OS X “Syrah”
After all that, you’d expect the changelog for the new OS X (codenamed “Syrah”) to be equally lengthy. It probably will be, but the only thing that seems like a lock right now is the facelift Apple has given it. Don’t give in to the hysteria: the next OS X update probably won’t look too much like iOS, though 9to5Mac reports that Apple has indeed worked to unify some of the design language across Apple’s devices. (Chill, the image above is just a mock-up by artist Danny Giebe.) That means we should be in for a flatter, more open-feeling OS X with plenty of white space replete with all the desktop niceties (the Finder, Mission Control) we’ve grown so used to. For a company whose products get outed by sources and supply chain trolls on the regular, it’s a welcome surprise to see that OS X’s new look will be a, well, surprise. For now, anyway.
Where’s all the hardware?
Despite what the name sort of implies, WWDC isn’t just about the software. Apple always trots out a few new gewgaws at the show each year — last time we saw the introduction of the dramatically redesigned Mac Pro, along with a batch of refreshed MacBook Airs… which were tweaked again just a few weeks back. Rumors abound of a much-anticipated Retina MacBook Air that’ll finally bring eye-searing screen resolution to all of Apple’s portables, but take that with a grain of salt.
A bit of poking around in the latest OS X Mavericks beta software revealed references to three new iMac models — a juicy tidbit that only seems juicier when you consider the slipping ship dates for iMacs on Apple’s online store. All signs seemed to point to new iMacs at the show, but über-connected Apple pundit Jim Dalrymple quickly shot down rumors of a low-cost model taking the stage. Sorry, folks.
There’s just a flicker of hope that some fresh Macs will appear, but how about some new iDevices to go with them? Don’t hold your breath. There’s just about no way Apple is going to pull back the curtain on a next-generation iPhone with the 5s (unveiled eight months ago) still so visible in the rearview mirror. That said, some analysts are foretelling the announcement of an even cheaper 8GB iPhone 5s meant for developing markets — we’ll soon see how good their crystal balls (err, supply chain analyses) are. Our hunch? Not good. At this point, there’s a half-decent chance that Apple won’t show off any hardware at all — TechCrunch is betting that’s the case exactly.
A home invasion?
Yeah, this one came out of the blue, didn’t it? A recent report from the Financial Times purports that Apple is preparing to trot out a connected-home system… or at least a set of guidelines that it wants some manufacturers to stick to. In short (and as Gigaom reported), Apple may just want home gadget makers to commit to Bluetooth-enabled voice control and connecting devices over a WiFi network. In exchange, those manufacturers would get an Apple certification, and everyone goes home happy.
It’s unclear whether or not Apple even plans to craft any of its own home-friendly hardware, but it’s hardly a surprise to see the company trying to wrangle players in the space. After all, Apple Stores already stock their fair share of internet-of-things goodies and analysts only expect the demand for devices that enable that sort of connected life to grow. We’re hoping against hope that Apple is pulling a pump fake to draw attention away from a meatier announcement, but our inner pragmatists are expecting to be vindicated.