The tech punditry is buzzing, the spy photos are proliferating, and software engineers, the gadget media, and techies of all stripes are traveling to San Francisco in droves. Apple’s WWDC conference is almost here! Quick recap for those catching up – WWDC is Apple’s annual conference for Mac and iPhone developers to show off and teach Apple’s newest announcements and innovations. Kristen and I are on our way (I’m currently enjoying Virgin America’s onboard wi-fi) and are pumped to get the week started!
So – before the conference, what do we expect Apple to announce? New iPhone? New software? Regardless of how numerous certain rumors are, it’s really anyone’s guess at this point. The biggest question is not hardware or software related but squarely centers on Steve Jobs. Scheduled to return to work from his six month absence at the end of June, his possible reemergence on the WWDC stage would reassure Apple investors of his health and possibly send the stock skyward. Here are my predictions for WWDC, ranked out likelihood of release.
New iPhone hardware – likely. A new iPhone release is almost a given at this point. What is up for debate is what features it will have. I assume that Apple will not release a drastically different model as it would make it hard to integrate the new model into the existing App Store. I’m expecting the new model to have 16gb to 32gb of storage, faster processor, video capabilities, a new camera, magnetometer (i.e. compass), and faster 3G speeds.
I’d really like to see a front-facing video camera (for video chatting) – would be a big first for U.S. cell phones, but I’m not sure if at&t’s network could support it.
Snow Leopard – very likely. We will 100% see an updated look at Snow Leopard, Apple’s newest operating system. So far the beta builds have focused only on stability and behind the scenes features. Grand Central, which promises to make all those unused cores in people’s computers finally work in harmony, is very appealing and could give all Apple computers a big speed boost when it’s released. I’m hoping when Apple reveals the full OS that there will be some new features they’ve been waiting to unveil until Windows 7 was finalized. Sadly, while I really hope Apple completely revamps the user interface (UI), I doubt they will. Design and function are so intertwined at Apple I cannot see them releasing betas for months without a redesigned UI and then suddenly shift gears and completely change everything. I also don’t think there will be a cheaper iPhone models yet – maybe in a year or so, but the iPhone itself is still too new to dilute it already.
iPhone 3.0 software – very likely. Apple will announce the release date for the finalized 3.0 software updating, bringing push notifications, search functions, a new voice recorder app, and 1,000 new APIs for developers to implement into their software. As the beta has been circulating for months, I doubt we will see any changes from that. However, I hope Apple has some way of responding to the massive advances the Palm Pre has shown in some way – the iPhone will start to look bit outdated if they do not bring background applications and faster load times at some point.
Tablet – doubtful. While I really hope Apple will finally a tablet, I do not see this WWDC as the venue to do it. Right now, they are focused on selling iPhones, and a new tablet could muddy that.
Updated computer models – likely. While I do not expect any massive changes in Apple’s computing lineup, I do expect moderate speed bumps in the Macbook Pros and iMacs.
MobileMe updates – 50/50. Rumors have been building lately that Apple will roll out updates to its MobileMe online service. Released one year ago to a shaky start, Apple’s MobileMe (offering email/online storage/photo galleries) has steadily improved but is still lagging a bit behind comparable (and free!) online services.
New LCD displays – 50/50. Apple has been transitioning its desktop and laptop screens to LED technology (offering better display quality while using less energy), and it’s likely they will finish the transition for the large 30″ display.
Steve Jobs returns to the stage – ?? The big question mark over the conference right now is whether or not Steve Jobs himself will make an appearance. Rumors are swirling that he’s ready to return to work, and what better way to return to the company but in front of 5,000 of its biggest fans. The crowd (myself included) will go nuts if the Phil Schiller announces he has “one more thing” to announce, and Jobs himself walks out. (Or he could partake in a video chat on a new iPhone – also a cool notion!)
So! Check out the live blog tomorrow (keynote beings at 1 PM eastern, our coverage will begin way before), our twitter feed (@TheWinstonGroup and @Chris_Anderson) and let us know how you like our coverage!
UPDATE: Twitter reminded me that I forgot one prediction – a MacBook Air with a $999 price point. The MacBook Air has been the overpriced yet incredibly sleek and portable model in Apple’s lineup. It’s been suggested that Apple will lower the price to $999 to compete with lower priced-netbooks. I’d like to see this happen, as a cheap MacBook Air would be a computer I’d buy, but I don’t think it will. Apple’s always been very good about keeping segmentation between its models consistent, and moving the MacBook Air around would muddy things.