With a record gap between Apple keynotes (the last one was 230 days ago), it has made this year’s WWDC keynote one of the most eagerly anticipated in recent memory. Here are my thoughts and predictions for this year’s keynote.
I don’t think any of the iOS product lines (iPhone, iPad, iPod touch etc) will see a refresh at WWDC this year. The iPad line got refreshed twice within 6 months last year, I believe this was to make sure they are refreshed yearly before the holiday (and not awkwardly in the spring) and I don’t think this will change anytime soon.
The MacBook Air is likely to get a refresh based on the Haswell processors that Intel launched last week. The major question is wether the new integrated GPU will be able to handle a Retina Display and maintain the high level of battery life that the MacBook Air is famous for… a SIM card slot would also be nice, but this is even less likely.
The Retina MacBook Pro should also see a refresh to Haswell CPUs but nothing else of note.
Mac Pro? This is an interesting one, we know that Tim Cook said that he would have something to satisfy Mac Pro users this year, but I feel that it won’t be shown at WWDC and when it does come it won’t simply be a new case and updated spec. The Mac Pro is likely to become a Mac Mini Pro with expandability coming through the Thunderbolt interface.
At the moment the iWatch sounds like it is just in the prototype stage, with not much information known about it. If it is unveiled at WWDC it will certainly be Apple’s best kept secret since the original iPhone, but I think it is more likely to be unveiled in 2014.
The biggest question at this point is what is the iTV, is it:
- An “actual” TV
- A Set Top Box replacement that allows you to subscribe to premium channels using your Apple ID and watch live terrestrial TV
- A pass through box (much like the Xbox One and Google TV) that presents your TV providers content in an Apple styled UI
- AppleTV with an SDK
The latter for me would be an easy and obvious choice and would open up the AppleTV to a variety of apps. The only issue would be input, as the current remote won’t cut it.
There are rumors going around that Apple will update the Airport Lineup to the 802.11ac wireless standard which is backwards compatible with 802.11n, but provides speeds of upto 1 Gigabit per second compared to the 300 Megabits per second of 802.11n. As Apple are usually early addopters of wireless standards, I think that this will happen but it might not even make the keynote.
Look and Feel
Now that Jony Ive has taken charge of the UI design of both iOS and OS X, there is going to be an overhaul of the look and feel of both.
iOS’s UI on the whole has remained pretty much unchanged since its original release in 2007. iOS will have the level of garish colors and gradients replaced throughout the UI with a flatter, less skeuomorphic look with (strong) colours being used more sparingly. Other than that, I think iOS 7 will keep the current springboard design, as it is one of the major elements that makes it so easy to get up and running with iOS. Moreover I don’t think that we will see widgets make their way to the springboard, but “live icons” for apps such as the weather is a possibility. Notification Center will remain in its current “swipe from the status bar” position, minus the linen, and might give us quick access to features such as turning on and off Bluetooth and WiFi.
OS X’s “Aqua” interface has already had a number of subtle UI changes over the years from pin stripes, to brushed metal, to the more simplistic flatter look found in OS X 10.8. I don’t expect the UI changes in 10.9 to be too drastic, but it will be updated to reflect the look an feel of iOS 7.
OS Level Third Party Service Intergration
OS X already supports Vimeo and Flickr in addition to the services that iOS supports, these will make the logically step across to iOS. I don’t however think that Apple will allow apps to arbitrarily register services for use in the rest of the OS.
In OS X 10.7 Apple introduced XPC which is designed for lightweight interprocess communication using Grand Central Dispatch (GCD) and launchd. Moreover in iOS 6 Apple started internally using “Remote View Controllers” e.g. MFMailComposeViewController, which allowed a View Controller from an (Apple) process to be presented in another process. I think allowing XPC in iOS 7 might be a step too far, too soon. XPC will mean that “an app” will have multiple processes for one, but allowing an app to present another apps view controller seems like a nice compromise.
iOS will allow you to set a third party app for your default web browser, email client, address book and calendar as long as they implement the specified protocol which will include providing the appropriate remote view controllers for other apps.
Full Screen Apps and Multiple Screens
Full Screen Apps and Multiple Screens really don’t play well together on OS X. If you have never had the pleasure, the “second screen” becomes a screen of linen and therefore redundant. This looks particularly stupid when the second display is a 27" Cinema Display.
Map Kit has now been avaliable on iOS for a year now and as Apple no longer has any licensing issues (as they own the Map Data) porting Map Kit across to OS X should be a no brainer.
Core Data Sync
iCloud (well what developers think of as iCloud) has one major … make that a huge problem. That is Core Data Sync. Core Data Sync is simply to generic of a solution to the grand daddy of all problems, syncing. I feel like Apple’s current approach simply can’t be fixed and they will have to attempt a different solution. The most obvious solution will be to have “the truth in the (i)Cloud”, meaning that all clients sync with the server (the truth) rather than with each other. I still think it will (unfortunately) be some what of black box. Unlike services such as Parse and Microsoft Azure, I don’t expect them to allow you to write server side code to handle requests.
A large number of apps make use of Push Notifications for a variety of things, but they are not without their problems (and irritations). One of the major issues with Push Notifications is that people often have more than one Apple device, meaning that you get a Push Notification for the same event on all of your devices (which is expected), but annoyingly you have to dismiss notifications on all of the devices. I expect Push Notifications to be unified and synced using iCloud.
Despite the anticipation for this years keynote being as high as ever, the amount of information that has been leaked out has been next to nothing … maybe Apple weren’t lying about doubling down on security. Although this makes writing a prediction blog post hard, it does lead to an exciting keynote and hopefully an exciting few months ahead for developers as they update their apps to take advantage of all the new APIs that Apple have to offer.