Apple WWDC - five things we can expect

Wednesday 05 June 2013 11.38
Apple chief executive Tim Cook all set for this year's Worldwide Developer Conference
Apple chief executive Tim Cook all set for this year's Worldwide Developer Conference

Tim Cook is going to unveil Apple's product slate for 2013 on June 10. Niall Kitson examines the main areas of speculation.

At last year's Worldwide Developer Conference Apple chief executive Tim Cook gave us a refresh of the Macbook pro and Air lines, including the introduction of the Retina Display; a new version of OS X in Mountain Lion; and iOS 6 with its 'impressive' 3D mapping. While not an event for consumers, WWDC has taken on the lustre of technology expos like IFA, CeBit and, yes, CES with tickets this year selling out in under 2 minutes. That's 5,000 tickets at $1,599 each.

So what will this year bring? A slight change in format is a safe bet. Apple usually has some kind of launch in the first quarter of the year, WWDC in the second and a final swathe of announcements in September/October in time for the Christmas rush. In the absence of any big ticket releases so far this year, we can expect WWDC to mix up software and developer fodder with some general interest tech. According to the rumour mill here are the most likely contenders:

iRadio

The last big addition to iTunes has been the introduction of the cloud storage service iTunes Match. For an annual subscription of €24.99, Apple will keep a copy of your music library in the cloud, including music you didn't buy through the iTunes store. If it's on your hard drive and available in the iTunes store you can access it online on any iOS device - what isn't on iTunes is uploaded to your iCloud account with a limit of 25,000 songs.

The execution of the concept isn't new - Amazon had has a similar service for some time in the US - but iTunes' reach and spread of iOS devices (over 410 million at the end of 2012) made it a certainty that Match would find its niche. The obvious next move is to continue to leverage iTunes with the introduction of a streaming radio service to compete with the likes of subscription services Spotify, Pandora and a resurgent Napster - the latter returning to Ireland just this week.

New Macbooks with Haswell processors

Deciding to move from IBM to Intel chips has been marked as a major turning point in the evolution of the Mac. At Computex this week Intel finally revealed a range of fourth generation Core processors using its Haswell microarchitecture. Intel promises Haswell chips will increase battery life and have superior graphics capabilities, including support for 4K displays with resolutions up to 3840x2160 pixels.

Problems with USB 3.0 aside, it's likely any announcement of new Macbook pro and Air models will feature improvements to the Retina Display - which currently delivers images at 2880x1800 pixels. Any advancement on that without sacrificing weight or form factor will surely require Haswell chips.

New iPad

The first generation iPad mini has proved such a success that it has been predicted it will overtake sales of its bigger brother later this year. According to a report by analysts NPD, Apple is expecting to sell 55 million iPad minis and 33 million iPads in 2013.

Obvious announcements would be a Retina Display for the iPad mini and a beefier iPad (possibly with a Haswell processor).

iOS 7, OS X

As a developer conference software will be to the fore. Expect a preview build of iOS 7 at minimum. What's unusual about iOS 7 is that it'll be the first major update released since the departure of Scott Forstall following the Maps catastrophe. Since taking over from Forstall as head of the Human Device Interface team, Apple's design guru Jonny Ive looks set to introduced to introduce a new-look iOS, with a flatter design and an end to skeuomorphic design for native apps like Notes and Calendar.

As for OS X it'll be another year, another big cat and, perhaps, even closer integration with iOS and services like Twitter, Facebook and Google.

Surprise announcement

Apple has always been good at delivering products out of left field that could be considered slow burners. The current form of the Apple TV, for example, came out of nowhere. This year there are a few contenders as to what it could be. Purists would say we're going to see a revitalised Mac pro, others a watch.

What we won't be seeing are any variations on the Google Glass theme or a TV - the latter, we're sure, will get its own big day.

Niall Kitson is editor of TechCentral.ie