Apple WWDC 2014 Preview: What To Expect At The World Wide Developers Conference

 
on May 14 2014 5:04 PM
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    Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook takes the stage during the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2013 in San Francisco on June 10, 2013. Reuters/Stephen Lam
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    According to rumors, iOS 8 could take center stage at this year's WWDC. Apple
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The much-anticipated Apple developers conference in San Francisco, which starts in two weeks, will likely highlight the tech giant’s health-related and map apps, hardware refreshes and operating system updates -- but probably not any sexy new products, say industry observers.

Much of the speculation surrounds CEO Tim Cook’s keynote speech at the the World Wide Developers Conference on June 2 -- a release date for the rumored iWatch, the acquisition of Beats? -- but operating systems will surely get major “screen time” at the conference.

iOS 8 is a guaranteed announcement, and there have been plenty of hints about the changes to come in the next version of Apple’s mobile operating system. For one, given that five of the 13 companies Apple purchased in its 2013 acquisition binge were map-related, expect some new mapping features to be announced. At WWDC two years ago, Apple released Apple Maps in iOS 6, a launch fraught with problems and gaps that went on for months. This time, they’ll want to do much better.

Like mapping apps, health-related apps are likely to be highlighted, as iOS 8 has a rumored focus on health and fitness, and Healthbook, a collection of health-related apps, is expected to debut at the conference. Apple will most likely include a software developers kit with the Healthbook app so developers can create plug-ins or apps that work directly within Healthbook.

Another iOS-feature announcement could be split-screen multitasking. It’s something Apple rival Microsoft has been touting on its Surface tablets for some time, and Apple seems to be responding, according to a report by 9to5mac. Currently iPad apps can be used only in full-screen mode.

As for OSX , the question is whether Apple will break from convention and release OSX10.10 or if it plans an all-new version of its OS, possibly OS11 or OSXI. Regarding nomenclature, version numbers tend to stop at x.9 and increase a whole version rather than an increment. The most recent version, OSX Mavericks, is OSX 10.9.

If Apple announces OS11 at WWDC 2014, it would mean a complete change in the OS, and clues point that way: A few weeks ago, Apple reportedly pulled developers off of the iOS 8 team to focus more on the desktop operating system. This means that the desktop OS will have a heavy focus at this year’s WWDC. Apple also changed its naming structure with the most recent iteration of OSX, leaving the big cats behind for “places that inspire us here in California.” The last time Apple updated its operating system was in 1999, when OSX debuted.

With the Mac Pro and the MacBook Pro line updated late last year, it isn’t likely that Apple will announce anything on those two devices. However, the MacBook Air will probably get a retina display, to bring it in line with Apple’s other computers.

Though rumors have Apple releasing several devices this year, it’s doubtful they’d be announced at this conference -- so don’t hold your breath for the iPhone 6 or the iWatch. While those devices will most likely possess the sensors needed for the Healthbook app, Apple has a history of being very quiet on its mobile line releases, opting to talk only weeks before the hardware is ready to ship.

Similarly, older devices like Apple TV and the iPod line probably won’t get stage time in San Francisco. Apple’s set-top box Apple TV is due for an update, as it has been more than two years since the current box was released. However, recent reports suggest that Apple will not discuss the Apple TV at this year’s WWDC, despite the Amazon Fire TV entering the market in March.

The iPod line is on a down-swing. With more music moving to the cloud, sales of the iPod Classic have dwindled. Tim Cook even stated in January that the “iPod is a declining business.” While some stalwarts are holding out for a last-generation device, it may have already happened.

More-recent developments may hold clues to other WWDC announcements. As reported late last week by Financial Times, Apple is in talks to purchase Beats by Dr. Dre, a music company known for its high-priced, high-profile designer headphones. Beats also has a fledgling Internet radio business, which may be why Apple is considering purchasing the company for a reported $3.2 billion. The deal is not confirmed, and while some are expecting Dre and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine to grace the WWDC stage, if the acquisition doesn’t happen in the next two weeks, it may not happen at all -- or the two companies might be waiting for WWDC to announce the coupling.

Other recent acquisitions hinting at Apple’s direction might get a talk track at the event. Right after Apple bought Burstly in February, the app monetization company sent out notices that its SDK licenses will expire on June 9, right after WWDC. Expect to hear about app monetization, but how Apple will include this company in its mix is very unclear.

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