Apple WWDC 2015: What to expect

Plans for the next year of software features that drive existing and new Apple hardware will be mapped out on Monday. Here's what to expect, and what not to.
Written by Kevin Tofel, Contributor

Apple's annual developer event takes place this coming week with dozens of sessions to help both iOS and OS X programmers. Everyone's eye, however, will be on the company's WorldWide Developer Conference keynote at 10am PT on Monday; it's there that Apple will set the tone for the next 12 months of products.

So what can you expect to see and hear from Apple? Not too much, if anything, in terms of new hardware. Instead, it's likely that Apple will mature both of its operating systems in advance of future hardware while also adding new features to existing devices.

Apple TV to be or not to be?

Although a "hobby" for the past several years, Apple TV is expanding Apple's influence in the home. Apple should announce that he current model will be used as a HomeKit gateway, providing remote access to connected devices in your home. That means flipping on light switches or modifying the temperature before you return to the house.

First Apple HomeKit devices

If not immediately, then in the future, I'd expect the Apple TV to be the hub that lets such thermostats, switches and door locks interact with one another as well. Trigger events such as opening the garage door might signal your lights to turn on at night.

Will there be new Apple TV hardware though? Odds are against it but that won't matter: the 3rd generation Apple TV will work with HomeKit. And any new content partner channels -- or the likely appears of Apple's new music streaming service -- can be added through software updates.

Apple Watch native apps

Although it took a year for the first iPhone to get native software apps from third-party developers it won't take as long for the Apple Watch to do so.

Look for Apple to expand software tools so programmers can move beyond simple Glance apps and extensions on the Apple Watch.

This would let the watch work more as a standalone device; helpful for at least two reasons.

First, native apps -- with background data support, that is -- will provide information faster than the current apps do. Second, the Apple Watch won't require that you carry an iPhone everywhere you go. When I use RunKeeper on my Apple Watch, for example, I have to have the phone with me during my run as it stands today. If the app runs natively on the watch, the phone can stay behind.

I anticipate Apple to roll out native app support on slow basis, though. The company will want to balance battery life of the watch with the utility of such apps. Look for Apple to provide the basic tools for apps now, with more APIs and features available to developers in the next 6 to 12 months.

Gallery: Apple Watch apps for the workforce

Tweaks and improvements in iOS 9

Frankly, I think iOS 8 was the biggest software release for Apple's mobile devices; mainly because it opened up cross-app sharing, added widgets and made the notification experience better. Unless Apple has some major surprises in store, I think I'll still feel that way, even after iOS 9 is shown off.

My guess would be a developer preview of the new software this week with a fall release to the public; coinciding with new devices of course. And much of what we'll see in iOS 9 will be small but useful improvements instead of a vast overhaul or major new features, unless you consider Force Touch support for future iPhones and iPads to be major.

Actually, I'll make one or two exceptions to that statement. It's time to see multi-app or split-screen support in iOS and Siri needs improvements.

I fully expect split-screen support for all of the iPad products and it would be a must-have for any new, larger iPad model. Might the functionality come to handsets? I'm dubious of that although the iPhone 6 Plus may get limited support. That phone already has a unique landscape interface in some apps thanks to large screen.

There's also an off-chance that Apple adds multiple user support to iPads, allowing several people to log-in and use the tablet as if it were there own.

As far as Siri goes, rumor suggests that she'll become a key part of an app called Proactive. The idea is to open up more third-party app support for Siri and provide contextual information based on your calendar invites, location and other data. Similar to the Now on Tap feature in Google's Android M software, Proactive should surface apps when you need or typically use them.

Surely there's OS X 10.11, right?

I think Apple has to show off the next version of its desktop platform. I'll go one further and suggest it opens up a public beta of OS X 10.11 this month, if not this week.

What's likely in the platform? That's a tougher call. There have been fewer leaks when it comes to OS X 10.11 outside of a change in the system font.

So I won't do too much speculation here. I will go out on a limb though and suggest that Apple focuses on a few key enterprise features; more than it has done in the past. With Microsoft's Windows 10 launching this year, I could see Apple taking a preemptive strike to try and attract more business users; particularly since the company is getting cozy with IBM.

Editorial standards