What to expect at Apple WWDC 2017: Sure bets and long shots

On June 5, Apple's army of dutiful developers will descend on WWDC. After a long, quiet spring, what will Apple announce? What innovations has it been working on?
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Apple is preparing for the 2017 WWDC.

Apple's 2017 World Wide Developer's Conference will begin next Monday at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, Calif.

Contrary to early expectations, this event is not being held at the not-quite-ready-for-prime-time Apple Park. And, speaking of expectations, in this article, we're going to look at what prognosticators, predictors, and pundits think might be discussed at next week's event.

WWDC is supposed to be all about developers and coding, but in recent years, Apple has used it as an excuse for another announcement. In 2015, Apple announced Apple Music. In 2013, Apple announced its ill-fated trash can Mac Pro (with Phil Schiller uttering the immortal line, "can't innovate anymore, my ass.").

This year, given that the company eschewed a spring launch event, it's a pretty fair guess that there will be some beyond-coding announcements in the June 5 keynote speech. Here's what we expect.

Almost guaranteed

Being a prognosticator is like being a TV weather announcer. It comes with some degree of guaranteed error. But even with the fact that we don't know all that much, here are the "sure bets" for what we expect to be discussed at WWDC.

1. Next MacOS update news: Apple has been updating its desktop OS, MacOS, like clockwork each year. This year will probably be no different. Of interest, though, is whether Apple will introduce any truly new or innovative capabilities, or continue its long march towards unification or parity with iOS.

In past years, Apple has named its MacOS (originally OS X) versions after animals, failed presidential candidates (Mavericks -- yes, I'm kidding), and California landmarks. This year, expect another famous California name, Big Sur, perhaps.

2. iOS update: At Apple's spiritual core these days is iOS. It's time for Apple to unveil iOS 11. This is particularly interesting, because the features in the iOS update often provide indicators of what to expect from new iDevices announced the following autumn. With a big, new Anniversary Edition phone anticipated in September or October, expect developers to show rapt interest in this part of the event.

3. watchOS: The Apple Watch has continued to evolve, with fitness and health a major focus. Expect to see further discussion of fitness capabilities (plus some bragging).

4. tvOS: Ever since Apple announced the new generation of Apple TV that runs apps, app development and production has been growing for this "hobby" set top box. A broadcast-replacement play from Apple has been long rumored. Since Hulu and other companies are beginning to syndicate traditional networks, this may be an arena Apple will enter. There is also some expectation that Amazon's Prime Video will finally make it to the Apple TV this year, if the two companies can learn to work and play together.

5. News about Apple Park and sustainability: Apple is making great progress on its new headquarters. Since the company has long bragged about its environmental awareness, we're pretty sure there will be a WWDC keynote segment devoted to these two topics.

Fair chance

Apple hasn't been as secretive as it would like (mostly due to leaks from vendors and developer partners), so we have some expectation that we'll see mention of the following.

6. Updated MacBook Pros: Hot on the heels of what were apparently hot-selling but universally-panned MacBook Pros in October, the rumor mills say there might be new processors announced. Given the generally low performance and mind-boggling price of the October MacBook Pros, expect some very cranky noise from recent purchasers if that happens.

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7. Updated MacBook: The Retina 12-inch MacBook Pro hasn't received a refresh since April of 2016, so it's a fair bet this baby will see a rev.

8. More details on Mac Pro: Ever since Apple admitted its failing with the trash can Mac Pro just a few months ago, we've been expecting more news. Is it too soon to expect more news? Perhaps not.

9. Other Macs: Filling out the Mac line, no news has definitely not been good news when it comes to the Mac mini and Retina iMac, both last updated more than two years ago. Will there be any news? The rumor mills have been silent here.

10. New iPads: Where the rumor mills have definitely not been silent is the expectation that there may be a 10-inch iPad. This was first expected in April, but that didn't happen. The fate of the 12-inch iPad Pro is also an item of curiosity. This device is running on almost two years and hasn't even seen its first update.

Long shots and moon shots

While all rumors are rumors, there are some longer shots that have an even lower probability of ever reaching reality. This is where we start reading tea leaves. Here are a few to look for.

11. Will Apple discuss AR or VR? Augmented reality and virtual reality have been amusements for most tech companies. But since CEO Tim Cook recently indicated an interest in augmented reality, it's possible we'll see some of that fleshed out, at least at the developer level.

12. Will Apple go deeper into AI? Apple was one of the first big tech companies to make a public bet on artificial intelligence with Siri, but recently, the company seems to have slipped behind its competitors -- most notably the Alexa series from Amazon. Will Apple finally add more developer access to Siri? What about other AI technologies? We'll see.

13. What about Siri in a can? With Google Home and the Alexa devices, Apple is behind the cloud-in-a-can trend. There are rumblings about a Siri speaker, so we'll see if Apple delivers. Integrating Siri further into the Apple TV, and adding microphone and speaker capabilities, would be another obvious choice.

14. What about CarPlay? Although Apple released 10.2.1 a few months ago, the company hasn't mentioned its vehicular version of iOS for over a year. Perhaps it's time.

15. Will there be a flying car? Speaking of cars, as far as we can tell, any Apple iCar is far into the future, if ever. But if there's going to be an Apple Car, why not give it four props this year, and send it up into the air? That's right. We're talking about the Apple iDrone, People Carrier Edition. All right, fine. We totally made that up.

To find out what's really going to happen, you'll just have to tune into WWDC next week. See you there! Share your predictions and wishes in the TalkBacks below.

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