By Dan Moren
June 2, 2015 6:00 AM PT
What to expect when you’re expecting WWDC 2015
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
There’s less than a week until Tim Cook once again plays ringmaster to a coterie of executives who are going to show us what Apple has in store for the year to come.
As ever, there’s plenty of prognostication, tea-leaf reading, and crystal-ball gazing1 going around about what Apple might unveil at its annual dog-and-pony show (dogs and ponies not included). So, hey, why can’t I join in on the fun?
While the company won’t—and, given the number of rumors and the limitations of the space-time continuum, simply can’t—announce every single possible product it might be working on, here’s a rundown of the likely and unlikely contenders.
iOS 9: They say past performance is no guarantee of future results, and true as that may be, a WWDC with no iOS update is a world I just don’t want to live in. Now, whether that update is the same sort of feature-laden release we’ve come to expect from prior years or something more modest, focused instead on squashing bugs, rounding all those unrounded rectangles, and generally stabilizing and optimizing the mobile OS, well, that’s anybody’s guess. But I wouldn’t rule out new features, especially the addition of public transportation directions to Maps, the tweaking of Spotlight to include Google Now-like contextual information (a feature reportedly called ‘Proactive’), and possible iPad-specific features like split-screen apps.
OS X 10.11: Maybe the biggest mystery is whether Apple will go ahead with its current numbering scheme and call this release OS X 10.11 or if it will instead wipe the slate clean and start anew. As to what such an update might include, rumor has it there’s a similar focus on bug fixes and performance tuning, but the next version of the Mac OS might also incorporate a new “rootless” security system, the same transit directions as iOS 9, and ooooh, a new font borrowed from the Apple Watch. Anybody want to bet on release names? Mojave? Sonoma? Burbank? My money’s on Capistrano.2
Watch OS SDK: It’s a developer conference, folks, and the Apple Watch is the hottest new piece of hardware that doesn’t yet support native apps. But Apple has promised that developers will be able to create them, and senior vice president Jeff Williams even confirmed this week that the software development kit will appear at WWDC, with developers able to ship native apps this fall. Of course there are plenty of questions about what the SDK will entail, but I’m hoping that it means better performance and even more interesting applications.
Music service: Apple’s acquisition of Beats Music has yet to bear fruit, but it’s been a little over a year since the company shelled out billions of dollars for the streaming service, so it’s probably about time for it to lay down its cards. The latest rumors have Cupertino approaching musicians to “guest DJ” the service. But does this service replace the not-terribly-successful iTunes Radio? Is it something else? Is Apple committed to driving free streaming out of business? Or will the free level simply be a more curated experience? So many questions, hopefully all to be answered in a week.
On the fence
Apple TV set-top box: Though we know an Apple television set isn’t happening, a revamp of the set-top box seems due, what with the price cut on the most recent model. Hopefully it’ll add some more features—perhaps even 4K support?—to bring it into line with the competition.
HomeKit hardware: Apple contends that the home-automation framework it announced at last year’s WWDC is on target, but we’ve yet to really see it in action. Will the company produce any smart home hardware of its own? My guess is not, other than possibly building in some sort of hub functionality to an Apple TV or other device. But don’t bet on an Apple thermostat, lightbulbs, or security system; third parties will take up the slack in those departments, and we’ll probably get to see a demo.
Mac Pro update: The current Mac Pro is from 2013, and while it’s still a plenty capable machine given the amount of power Apple packed into it, it also seems well-placed for a second-generation update that smooths out some of the first model’s rough edges and keeps it competitive.
iMac update: The 5K iMac was announced in October, so it could get speed-bumped, but it could easily go the other way. Maybe some of the improvements in the 5K version could trickle down to the lower-end models? Perhaps USB-C could appear on a computer other than the new MacBook? All of those are possible developments, but none of them seem particularly imminent.
Mac mini update: Everybody’s favorite tiny Mac got a refresh last fall as well, so it seems like it’s probably a bit too soon for it to get another makeover. But I always want to remind this little guy that I still love it.
Apple TV streaming service: As recently as Monday, I had this as a “likely” candidate, but Recode now says it won’t appear until later this year or 2016. While I really want Apple to get into subscription video, I’m also concerned that it’ll end up being just another player in the increasingly fragmented market. Dropping Hulu for Apple’s service might be a possibility, depending on whose programming is onboard, but dropping Hulu and Netflix? That seems like wishful thinking to me. Which is probably why it’s taking so long for Apple to lock down all the licensing.
New MacBooks: The MacBook Pros and MacBook Air have all gotten speed bumps and refreshes in the last few months, and the new MacBook has just started shipping in quantity. It’s way too soon to see any of them getting updated again.
New iPhones: Despite mounting rumors of a Force Touch-enabled iPhone 6s, I wouldn’t expect to see a new handset until Apple’s usual fall announcement.
New iPads: Same.
Apple Watch 2: Perhaps you’re sensing a pattern. Besides, the Apple Watch just came out in April, so they might as well just hand attendees complimentary pitchforks and torches on their way into the keynote.
New iPod touches: Adieu, iPod touch. You haven’t been updated since 2012, and I don’t expect that to change in the near future.
New iPod shuffle: Who let you in here?
Apple Car: Out. Get out.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]
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