Apple banners will fly again June 8 through 14 as Apple fills Moscone Center with thousands of developers and journalists at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. The sold-out conference presents developers a rare opportunity to talk directly with Apple engineers in technical sessions and hands-on labs. For the rest of us, it’s a glimpse of the future.
While last year’s WWDC was overshadowed by the media’s speculation regarding the iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch, this year promises to cover a whole range of exciting new technologies, rumored to center on the long-neglected and often panned Apple TV.
Apple TV has never met with the runaway success of its flagship products, and enthusiasts have only received three noteworthy upgrades, being forced to watch as competitors like Roku introduced cheaper and arguably superior devices. But as the Apple artwork for WWDC 2015 heavily suggests, that is all about to change as the Apple TV finally takes center stage at Moscone.
The Apple TV may soon become the cornerstone of the Apple ecosystem and it can’t do that using the hardware it’s currently packing. It’s almost certain the new Apple TV will be overhauled. It will be slimmer, smarter and far more powerful. That also means a significant increase in physical storage and maybe even a new Apple A8 processor to run it all. Siri control and a new remote with a Force Touch touch pad are heavily anticipated, and there’s plausible speculation regarding some exciting new ways to control your Apple TV.
Apple’s 2013 acquisition of PrimeSense (inventors of Xbox Kinect) and a host of recently revealed patents suggest it may have gesture control in the near future, paving the way for a new era in console gaming. An Apple TV app store has long been predicted, but I’m not sure this year’s crowded WWDC is where Apple would announce that — Tim Cook will be plenty busy with announcements for other cool stuff, but you never know.
When Apple introduced iOS8, it also introduced HomeKit, Apple’s take on the Internet of Things — a movement to connect and integrate all the new sensors and smart devices flooding into consumer electronics. In fact, the week prior to WWDC has already seen the release of HomeKit-certified products from Ecobee, Elgato, iHome, Insteon and Lutron — products that will most likely use the new Apple TV as their central hub. As a HomeKit hub, the Apple TV would allow you to do things like adjust lights, turn on appliances, determine energy and water consumption, lock doors and send electronic keys, all right from your iPhone.
It’s expected that Apple will seek to solidify its position as the center of your music and media world. We’ll finally see what Apple has done with Beats and how it plans to take on Spotify and Pandora in the increasingly competitive streaming music market.
Apple Music (as it is called internally) is being redesigned from the ground up under the direction of NIN frontman Trent Reznor. The new service will be deeply integrated with iTunes and is reported to include tons of exclusive content and preprogrammed radio stations from famed DJ Zane Lowe. Celebrity stations and playlists will also be in the mix — where they post sample tracks, photos, videos and concert updates on their own artist-controlled pages where users can get social and like and comment on their favorite performers’ posts.
It is likely there won’t be a free subscription — the music industry is rethinking their freemium business model — but there will probably be a free trial period and perhaps several pricing tiers. They may even include an Android app for previous and current Beats users.
CBS CEO Les Moonves all but confirmed the existence of Apple’s plans to expand its television streaming services at a recent conference saying that CBS would probably sign a deal to be an Apple launch partner. Rumor has it Apple will soon be offering 25 to 30 live channels from major networks for $30 to $40 a month as an affordable alternative to cable’s pricey and complicated bundled offerings. Cutting the cable cord suddenly seems within grasp!
More recent reports, however, suggest that licensing negotiations with affiliates mean the announcement won’t make it to the stage now, but Apple routinely pulls off the impossible at WWDC.
When Apple ran out of big cats as operating system names, it wisely went with California landmarks like Mavericks and Yosemite instead. Unfortunately, as Apple began to integrate it with its mobile operating system, those simple name changes also reflected significant changes to the operating system itself, bringing big problems for a significant number of users (*cough* Apple Mail *cough*), and this year’s update is expected to focus primarily on bug fixes, speed, stability and security. There may be exciting new features, but the focus will be on a thorough system-wide optimization and refinement (similar to the rock-solid Snow Leopard).
Among the expected features are iOS-inspired changes including new default font San Francisco, a control center for easy access to system functions, improvements to Continuity, new Wi-Fi functionality and the conversion of some native applications like Notes from IMAP to iCloud Drive.
Apple is also reportedly working on a kernel-level security system (code name “Rootless”) that should do a lot to protect users’ sensitive personal data and prevent malware intrusions. With the recent release of its latest Macbook, you can almost be certain there will be Force Touch integration, as it will be the new marquee feature of Macs in the future.
Recent changes to iOS represented a radical redesign, and it is very unlikely any drastic changes are coming. As such, iOS9 is largely expected to follow OS X’s lead, foregoing whiz-bang features for performance and stability improvements.
Expect to see iOS9 take some design cues from the Apple Watch — Force Touch integration, the new font and a more colorful and powerful Siri. Additionally, Maps will receive an upgrade (especially to its 3-D maps and transit maps), and there should be a new Home app for HomeKit, deeper integration for iCloud apps and perhaps even some minor HealthKit improvements.
There is also a persistent rumor of multiuser support and a large iPad Pro, which might have true split-screen multitasking and (gasp!)… a stylus.
The news for Apple Watch developers is markedly more exciting than any news awaiting Apple Watch wearers. The Apple Watch software development kit is expected to be released, which will allow developers to create native apps for the Apple Watch. For lucky users, this means you will be able to run apps directly off of your wrist — apps will be smarter, faster and work even if your paired iPhone is out of range or dead.
There has also been talk about a new feature called Smart Leashing that will let you know when you’ve left your iPhone behind, but that may require a second-generation Apple Watch.
There may also be some other new hardware announcements. The 15-inch Retina Macbook Pro was just refreshed, but the Mac Pro, Airport Extreme, Airport Time Capsule, Macbook Air, iMac and Mac Mini could come up. Some are hoping for a refreshed line of high-resolution displays. A new stand-alone keyboard utilizing Apple’s new butterfly mechanism or some new Beats headphones wouldn’t be surprising.
Don’t count on a new iPhone or iPad announcement, though. They’ll likely be reserved for September and October respectively, though hints of things to come often surface during the event.
Apple will be live streaming from its Apple Events application on Apple TV at 1 p.m. Eastern on June 8.