Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is a little over a week away and the excitement is palpable. Much of the tech world will be focused on the keynote speech as we await news of what new goodies Apple plans to unleash on the world.
The list of what people are expecting to be unveiled at WWDC 2013 is huge, and ranges from new iPhones and iPads, to updated iOS and OS X, along with a whole raft of new Macs.
Given the stratospheric levels of hype and expectation, I hate to be the wet blanket, but I feel duty-bound to be honest and inject some realism into all the wild, crazy speculation circulating on news sites and social media.
To begin with, let's not lose sight of the fact that WWDC is, and has always been, a developer conference.
The clue is, in case you'd missed it, in the name.
WWDC is a place where a few lucky developers who managed to get their hands on tickets can mingle with the best and the brightest from Apple's engineering departments, and get intimate with code and APIs and all things programming. It's a place where iOS and OS X developers get to peek at — and play with — new stuff that's coming down the pipes from the Cupertino mothership, and start working on apps for the upcoming platforms.
In other words, WWDC is mostly about fostering good relationships with developers, and helping to create an app ecosystem for the next-generation platforms before they arrive on the scene.
So, check your wild, outlandish expectations at the door, and remember what the "D" in WWDC stands for: Developer.
Another thing to bear in mind is that the keynote address at WWDC — the part where CEO Tim Cook and the rest of the Apple monarchy take the stage, and the part that pundits all around the world are most excited for — is usually only a couple of hours long. This is not long enough to revamp Apple's entire line of products, especially when you consider how much preamble, backslapping, and self-congratulation happens at the beginning of these keynotes.
So yes, WWDC is a big thing, but it's not the platform for Apple to refresh everything.
OK, so what can we expect from WWDC 2013? Here's what I think we're going to see — along with some things that I don't expect to see.
New iPhones and/or iPads
These are Apple's flagship products and as such command a separate launch event with its own fanfare. All these rumors of cheaper iPhones and thinner iPads are, in my opinion, nothing more than speculation and fantasy.
While there's no doubt that the Mac remains important to Apple, it is nowhere near as important or as influential as its post-PC devices, and as such it makes more sense that Apple would choose WWDC to unveil new hardware. Also, given that Mac developers seem to buy a lot of high-end Mac hardware, it seems like the ideal opportunity for Apple to tempt a salivating crowd of devs.
As to what Macs we might see refreshed, well, the Mac Pro is now seriously long in the tooth and either needs an urgent upgrade, or putting out of its misery.
As to the other Macs, we might see a limited upgrade of some lines (such as the MacBook Pro and high-end iMacs), or a refresh that extends across the board.
Part of me wants to see Apple unveil something completely different, such as an OS X-powered tablet, but that's just me getting carried away.
No. Why? Well, the clue is in the fact that Apple just released a new iPod Touch model just the other day.
Previews of revamped iOS and OS X
Now we're talking. This is what WWDC is all about, and I expect that iOS 7 and OS X (which I'm speculatively calling 10.9) will feature heavily.
I'm not expecting any dramatic or jarring changes. Evolution, not revolution. That's what I'm expecting from the refreshes. I think that the negative reaction from users to Microsoft's Windows 8 will temper anything too crazy or outlandish.
As to what I expect from each:
iOS 7 — The anticipated user interface redesign courtesy of Sir Jony Ive. That said, I'm tending to think that the revamp might be more conservative than some are predicting, and I think that talk of a 'flat look' user interface might have been taken too far. I think 'flat' refers more to dumping the skeuomorphic stitched leather and wood look present in some apps than it has to do with creating a blander, mystery meat user interface.
I'm also expecting new and revamped iCloud services, a raft of new APIs, more social media integration, and for iOS to become more closely tied to OS X via the cloud.
OS X — Gradual improvement is what I'm expecting here. Refinements to the UI, new APIs, greater integration with iCloud and iOS.
We forget just what an important part of the Apple ecosystem iCloud services have become. I expect to see old services get new features, and maybe even some new services to play with.