What Are We Expecting At WWDC This Year?

By Jimmy Rogers (@me)
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

WWDC ArrivesIt’s that time of year again!  The sun is shining, the frogs are croaking, and the Apples are slowly ripening.  Not the kind that you eat, but the kind with which you listen to music!  On June 8th, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) will return to San Francisco and likely refresh the Apple product line for the next six months.

What should we expect at this big event?  Well first and foremost, WWDC is a developer-centric meet-up and has workshops for anyone interested in designing apps for the OS X platform.  For that reason, the product announcements to come out of WWDC have been a bit hum-drum in the last few years.  I expect this year to be different.  Why?

  • Apple is pulling out of MacWorld and presumably planning to ramp-up WWDC (their single remaining conference, over which they have complete control).
  • Snow Leopard, a newer version of OS X Leopard, is coming out at WWDC and Apple will probably try to tie some hardware revs to the new OS.
  • The iPhone is getting new firmware and the timing is right for an upgraded device as well.

OS X

Let’s start out with Snow Leopard.  To be honest, I’m not a Mac user at the moment so it would be hard for me to do justice to the new OS.  Here is the conference’s page for Mac developers, where they outline a few of the newer features.  As I understand it, Snow Leopard is less about “OOH SHINY NEW BUTTONS” and more about speed, efficiency, and stuff developers tend to notice a lot more than consumers.

Mac

So far I haven’t heard anything significant about new Macs (though a refresh wouldn’t surprise me, again, to go with Snow Leopard).  If there’s some big move rumored on that front and we’ve missed it, let me know (as indicated below).

iPhone

The big event that we’re pretty certain of is iPhone related.  The iPhone’s firmware is about to get a major update and hit Version 3.0.  To remind you, the high points of the new firmware are:

  • Cut, Copy, and Paste
  • Better Search
  • MMS (essentially text messages with pictures and videos in them)
  • Some much needed tweaks to the interface
  • A greatly expanded API so developers can do even more with the device

Many are expecting a new iPhone body along with the new firmware.  According to AppleInsider, Apple is planning to release 3 different varieties of the iPhone.  Likely the 3 models will be of 3 different storage capacities (though no ideas on what those capacities might be).  Also, the body may have a black matte finish. (image from MacRumors via AppleInsider):

iPhone with Matte Finish

Other potential upgrades to the phone will be faster data speeds (depending on your country’s network of course), a better digital camera, video recording capabilities, better battery life, more RAM or better usage efficiency, and probably a faster processor.  Enhanced use of the “over the air” iTunes Store may also be in the works.

Thoughts

As a watcher of Apple movements, I feel the same feelings I’ve felt from past Apple keynotes.  Most keynotes are either incremental or a real bust.  Every once in a while, though, a “perfect storm” occurs.  These keynotes address all of the central areas needed for Apple’s next big advance.  While this keynote will probably be somewhat evolutionary (as opposed to revolutionary), they could still score big this next year if they play their cards right.  And as we all know, Steve Jobs (who is still there in spirit even in his ill health) is an excellent card player in the game of technology.

One more thing…

So there has been a ton of speculation about a Mac tablet of some sort.  It is reminiscent of the days when an “iPod phone” was rumored but didn’t pan out for years.  Tablet rumors have been around for about as long as the iPhone rumors were before they came true, so there is some potential for this one, just based on that.  Our own John Lister wrote an article recently comparing some of the rumors.

My take on the thing is this:

  • asus-eee-pc-t91-netbook-tabletApple is just slightly behind the rest of the computer makers in that it has a fairly large gap between its iPod/iPhone sized devices and its Macbook.
  • They are dissatisfied with modern tablets and “sub-notebooks” because all of these devices are either clunky or sacrifice performance.
  • If Apple ever DOES make a tablet, it will be as iPhone-like as possible and definitely multi-touch (there is pretty much no way it would look like the image above).
  • I don’t think we’re going to see an actual tablet launch at WWDC – there, I said it!

I’m pretty confidant there is a tablet coming because we’re now hearing rumors about suppliers.  Once rumors start coming from the hardware makers (or about them at least) it’s a pretty good bet that SOMETHING new is coming.  AppleInsider seems to be reporting just that kind of news.  By all accounts the iTablet could be in your hands by the first half of 2010.

Of course we only know what leaks out of Apple.  Everything else is just trend-watching and pattern recognition.  If you have a theory or even some kind of hot tip, let us know in the comments or share it with me on Twitter. We’ll be doing some post-game analysis after the conference, so look out for that too!

What do you expect to come out of WWDC?  What do you hope for?

[Apple Bite image from Genuine Curiosity | Fake Apple Tablet from CNNMoney.com/Fortune]

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