What to watch for at WWDC

We are just a couple days from one of the biggest tech events of the year, WWDC. Apple has moved their conference from San Francisco back to San Jose and will be live streaming their keynote starting Monday morning at 10:00 a.m. PT. 

There have been surprisingly few rumors and leaks out of Apple leading up to the keynote, which has left people free to speculate what the tech giant has in store. Here are my final thoughts and predictions (sure to go wrong) I'm making the weekend before WWDC. 

What To Expect

It's been a couple of years since Apple has made any significant changes to iOS. Apple's mobile platform is due for a new coat of paint, and I think we'll see it this year. It may not be the same kind of complete overhaul that they did with iOS 7, but I expect some fairly significant changes to the UI in iOS 11. 

Speaking of iOS, I think we will see a lot of attention being paid to the iPad. They have been pitching the iPad as a computer replacement to the masses for years now, but have not made any significant changes to the OS since the launch of the first Pro models. It's a fairly safe bet that they will bring system wide drag and drop to iOS, as it seems like such a slam dunk and a feature Pro users have long been asking for.

10.5 inch piece of paper on 9.7 inch iPad Pro. Source: Cult Of Mac

10.5 inch piece of paper on 9.7 inch iPad Pro. Source: Cult Of Mac

One thing that has been heavily rumored for the past couple of months now is the existence of a new, 10.5 inch iPad. There have been leaks of third party manufacturers making cases for this new model, and at this point I think it's a pretty safe bet that they will at least announce it at the show. What we don't know is exactly what this new model will look like. People have been suggesting that the 10.5 inch iPad could be their first model to have reduced, even nonexistent bezels. This would line-up with the new iPhone rumors, but nothing substantial has leaked from Apple or any of their OEM's confirming the scuttlebutt. 

We know that their will be some changes to macOS, but for the life of me I can't think of anything big they need to address. I'm sure they will make some stability and security improvements around the edges, but outside of adding more Siri integration I can't think of any We know that Apple is set to refresh the MacBook Pro line with the new series of Intel chips, so expect them to at least mention them in passing. As someone who very comfortable working on a Mac in its current form, I'm hoping that they take a cautious approach when making changes to macOS

Apple will most likely have something to say about improvements to both watchOS and tvOS, but this doesn't seem like a big year for either. I think it's pretty safe to say that Apple is waiting to do a major overhaul of Apple TV for when they have a large chunk of media providers on board to provide some kind of new subscription service, but they are not there yet. It will be interesting to see if Apple announces their rumored deal with Amazon Prime Video on stage, because having Amazon's video streaming service back on Apple TV is a big win. 

What I'm hoping for

It's time for Apple to get into the voice activated, home assistant space, and I'm hoping they get into the game in a big way. We already have rumors that Apple has been working on one of these things for awhile now. This is an area in which Apple could make a huge splash in a new product category. There have been surprisingly few leaks about the Siri speaker, but given what we know about Apple, I would expect it to have great sound, sleek design and smart functionality. I'll talk more about this later.

We know that Apple is updating the MacBook Pros, but what interest me more is what they have planned for the thinner, less powerful MacBook. With their competitors going hard after the MacBook Air, it feels like now would be a good time to give their own MacBook Air heir a speed bump, and hopefully a better keyboard. Every time I've gotten my hands on the MacBook's keyboard I instantly recoil at how mushy the keys are. We should not live in a world in which the keyboards that come with the iPad Pro are more usable than the keyboard on a MacBook. There's a lot I love about the MacBook, it's incredible small and light, has a gorgeous screen, and has the native advantage of running my preferred operating system. I think with some small improvements they could really have a killer product. 

 

John Gruber has been championing an iPad Smart Keyboard with a trackpad, and I'm all for that. If we can assume that Apple is working on some fairly large changes to the way people work on the iPad, it makes sense that we would eventually get hardware features that would make things like text editing easier. I've droned on about this before, but when I travel I would love to be able to sit down and work on my iPad Air 2, It already serves as my daily newspaper, book library, television and photo viewer. Gruber does a good job of explaining how the functionality would work, and it seems like an easy win. 

I would love to see some major changes to iTunes; specifically, it would be great if Apple completely blew up the service and made things like Podcasts and TV their own services. I listen to a lot of podcasts while I'm working, and right now I have no home for podcasts on my computer because I absolutely dread opening up iTunes. 

Surprise Me, Apple

tim cook apple.jpg

I'm hopeful that this is gong to be a big, newsy conference from Apple. It's been a while now since the company has announced software or hardware that has really captured the imagination of its fanbase. You could argue that the Apple Watch is doing just fine these days, and you don't have to shoot for the stars as a company when your phone is the hottest selling product in the world, but I think that that the company has a lot riding on this next year. 

Apple became the world beating giant that they are by consistently releasing products and software that shaped the way the world thought about technology. You see that every time they roll out their greatest hits montage video before announcing a new product. The last product that really belongs in that montage is the iPad, and that thing came out over seven years ago. 

If there has been a knock on Apple in the Tim Cook era it's that they have been too safe, choosing iteration over taking the risks that innovation requires. I think that they have real opportunity here to put out a device - probably one that heavily uses AI like Amazon's Echo line and Google Home - that changes the way we interact with technology in the home.

I can imagine an Apple AI assistant that a family could use to control their TV, lights, stereo, and appliances. People could also use it to make phone calls, order take-out, buy groceries, set reminders, and hail an Uber. There are devices that can do these things already, but none of them are perfect - far from it. Apple could release a product that really leapfrogs the tech that is out right now in the same way that the iPhone did when it first released. 


That's what I'm hoping for out of Apple this year at WWDC. It's not that I'm unhappy with the products that they have been making in the past decade. I love working on my iMac and using my iPad when I'm lounging on the coach or before I go to bed. I do think there are some major improvements they could make to both their laptops and Pro iPad models, which I think we'll see this year. What has me more excited; however, is this opportunity that Apple has to leave their mark in the formative years of AI assistants. It's the first time since the passing of Steve Job's that the company has a chance to take some big risks. Let's hope they swing for the fences.