It’s that time of the year again. The 28th edition of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) kicks off on 5 June – and the expected announcements at the event by Tim Cook and his team has already generated considerable buzz among tech enthusiasts worldwide. This year, the WWDC will be organized at the McEnery Convention Center (the conference was last held in San Jose way back in 2002; between 2003 and 2016, Moscone West in San Francisco was the venue). In what follows, we will take a quick look at all the likely announcements at the upcoming 5-day annual Apple conference:
OS X was rebranded as macOS last year – and the second macOS update will be showcased at WWDC 2017. There is some doubt over whether the update will be called macOS 10.13 or macOS 11 (to match with the iOS 11 mobile platform) – but the latest rumours and discussions in Apple communities strongly point to the former. The upgraded version of the OS for Mac computers will be, of course, be named after a famous spot in California – with Malibu, Mojave and Monterey Bay (less likely) being strong contenders. macOS 10.13 is widely expected to have large-scale feature integrations with the iOS platform – and should have better animations as well.
While Amazon Echo and Google Home have upped the game in the domain of home automation – Apple has mostly remained quiet on this front. That is likely to change at this year’s conference, with the Cupertino company slated to reveal its much-hyped Siri Speaker, with enhanced artificial intelligence (AI). The speaker might well have a customized version of iOS built into it, and will probably be powered by Beats technology (Apple acquired Beats in 2014). Right from alarms, music playbacks and web search, to managing smart devices and responding to voice commands – the Siri Speaker will be able to do a lot of things. It remains to be seen whether it can indeed mount a serious challenge to the popularity of Echo.
Note: The final name of the Siri Speaker might well be ‘Apple Home’ or ‘Beats Home’.
At this year’s September event, Apple will be launching the iPhone 7S/7S Plus (maybe a special 10-year anniversary iPhone model to go with them too). The new phones will ship with iOS 11 – and the latter is set to be announced at WWDC 2017. There is a fair chance of ‘Dark Mode’ finally making an appearance on the iOS platform, while Apple Pay will be updated and further improvements to both FaceTime and iMessage will be made. However, the ‘big reveal’ about iOS 11 should be the updates in Siri – focused on advanced machine learning and AI standards. Apple has reportedly been working on Siri updates at a ‘secret office at 90 Hills Road in Cambridge’, and there is every likelihood of major feature upgrades being announced. There is an outside chance of iOS 11 having some ‘for-iPad’ features as well (just as iOS 9 brought split-screen multitasking to the table).
Note: Apple might well step outside convention and name the new smartphone ‘iPhone 8’.
Updates for Macbook Pro
The WWDC has traditionally been a ‘software’ event – but there have been instances in the past of the company actually announcing new hardware at the event (the the Mac Pro arrived in 2013). There is a fair chance of new updates being announced for Macbooks at this year’s conference. The 12” Macbook Pro – which last received an update in early-2016 – should be refreshed, while both the Macbook and the Macbook Pro lines might get new models (with the 7th-gen Kaby Lake processors from Intel, and more RAM). According to rumours, users have a chance to get a look at updated 13” and 15” Macbook Pro models at the event. The fact that the availability dates for Macbook Pro (all models) have been pushed back to after the WWDC keynote on May 5 further indicates that new hardware is in the offing.
Note: Apple has no intentions of giving up on the often-overlooked Macbook Air devices. It is likely to get an update as well.
In 2016, sales of Apple TV (after the launch of the 4th-generation box) showed a big upward surge. While it still lags behind Amazon, Google and Roku – the company clearly has high hopes from its media-streaming device. At the WWDC, exclusive previews of television shows meant for Apple-users (‘Planet of the Apps’ will be showcased) will be held. A new version of the operating system – tvOS 11 – will also be announced, with a set of new features and add-on functionalities. The Cupertino tech giant is probably eyeing a launch for Apple TV 5 – which will support 4K videos – in the fall of this year.
A new iPad Pro
In the first quarter of 2017, worldwide sales of iPads fell by a staggering 22% – painting a pretty bleak future for the device. To counter the freefall of iPads, Apple came up with the sleek 9.7” iPad Pro in March – and will, in all likelihood, display another model, the 10.5” iPad Pro (iPad Pro 2, anyone?) at the annual conference. The larger display will be a direct result of the presence of smaller, edge-on-edge bezels in the new model. Ming-Chi Kuo, a KGI securities analyst, considers there is a 70% chance of the 10.5” iPad Pro being announced at the event – with the new ‘tablet PC’ model registrations (4 models) also providing a clear indication. Both the hardware and the software of the new iPad Pro will be bumped up from its predecessors, while the built-in camera will be more powerful too. Apple also has plans to display a ‘wireless input device’ at this year’s WWDC – which points to Apple Pencil 2.
Note: In 2017, 3 iPad Pro models will be launched. The 12.3” model will make an appearance probably later this year.
The iPad might be struggling, but the Apple Watch is certainly on an upswing. In 2016 Q4, sales of the smartwatch increased by more than 12% (YoY) – with well over 6 million units being shipped worldwide (according to a Canalys report). The arrival of Apple Watch 2, with enhanced functionalities and less reliance on paired iPhones, has been a key factor in pushing the popularity of these wearables. The stage is now set for the arrival of watchOS 4, at the WWDC event. While not much is known about the features it is likely to have, app developers are expecting the Workout application to include more sporting activities. For the health conscious, ‘glucose maintenance’ will be a handy new feature…while ‘sleep tracking’ also has a chance (albeit small) chance of being a part of watchOS 4. The Apple Watch 3, however, is not likely to see the light of day before early-2018.
New iMac models, maybe?
The chances of new iMac computers being announced at WWDC 2017 are slim. However, the company is aware that the existing Mac Pro computer has its fair share of deficiencies – and in a private press meet in April, revealed that work on a ‘new Mac computer’ (which would specifically address the requirements of pro-level users) is already in progress. Craig Federighi might drop more hints about the new iMac during the event, along with a probable launch date. It will be interesting to find out what improvements in specifications are made in the new Apple computer.
Note: The Mac Mini last received an update in October 2014. There is hardly any chance of the Mini getting any stage time at the WWDC 2017 either.
Rivalry with Amazon over?
There has been some buzz about the new Apple TV (fifth-generation) having the Amazon Prime video app. While that would put an end to the Apple-Amazon long-standing rivalry – there has not been much evidence to prove that it is anything more than a rumour. Let’s just say that it will be a fairly big surprise if anything about the Prime video app (for Apple TV) is mentioned at the conference.
iMessage on Android
Once again, not one of the ‘more likely announcements’ at the upcoming edition of WWDC – but Apple has already confirmed that a custom version of iMessage app for the Android platform is under development. The release is more likely to be in late-2017 rather than by the next week though. The presence of a single, cross-platform communication application for SMSes and data-messages would add to the convenience of general users. FB Messenger, and even WhatsApp, might have a new rival.
As has been the custom since 2014, the tickets of Apple WWDC 2017 has been distributed through a lottery system (the tickets are priced at $1599). Press invites were sent out well in advance – and for STEM members and students, there are special WWDC scholarships. The keynote for this year’s WWDC starts from 10:00 PST (Pacific Coast Time)…and Apple fans from the world over will be hooked on to the live stream on Monday, that’s for sure!