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WWDC 2009: Rumor Round-Up Ahead of the Big Show


As this week comes to an end, tech watchers turn their loving gaze away from E3, and refocus their attention on the Moscone Center in San Francisco, which will host Apple’s (s aapl) annual Worldwide Developer’s Conference beginning Monday, June 8.

Just like every year before it, we’ve seen many rumors circulate regarding what Apple will be unveiling at the media circus that is the conference’s kick-off keynote address. But as we all know from experience, a rumor does not a product announcement make. Here’s a look at what’s being said about what we’ll see at WWDC, organized by likelihood.

Bet the Farm

Because of the obsessive attention it tends to draw from devotees, Apple sometimes has a hard time surprising folks. As with most events, WWDC ’09 has some safe bets that have run the rumor mill gauntlet and been accepted as fact by some major industry players.

  • New iPhone Hardware — I know it, you know it, and Walt Mossberg certainly knows it. It’s not a matter of if or when, it’s just a matter of what. A healthy list of potential iPhone features abounds, and they vary in their individual likelihood. As such, I’ll be listing them separately. The keynote Monday will see the announcement for a new iPhone, but don’t expect to get your grubby mitts on one until July.
  • Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard — You won’t be able to buy it at or during WWDC, but we will see a version that’s as good as gold. Maybe not quite Gold Master, but a feature-complete, pre-release demo version that will finally end all our digging like animals through leaked developer preview screenshots posted on Russian tech forums.
  • iPhone Camera, Storage Space — These two things will be improved with an iPhone refresh. Guaranteed. Anything else is less sure to occur.
  • App Store Parental Controls — The settings pane already exists in the iPhone 3.0 beta preview software, but the corresponding ratings system in the App Store has yet to go live. Expect it to kick in following the official release of the firmware, which Apple has already guaranteed for June, and probably for WWDC.

Good Odds

These are likely to happen, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call them certainties. The MacBook one I’m preparing for financially, so I feel fairly sure it’ll go down.

  • MacBook Incremental Upgrades — The unibody aluminum MacBook was released way back in October 2008, and hasn’t been touched since. Which means it’s just about time for a spec bump. Expect to see the notebook’s internals get their semi-annual update at WWDC, and then expect me to buy one.
  • Steve Jobs Appearance — He may not be delivering the keynote, but the most respected, feared and revered CEO in recent memory doesn’t just plan for a June return to work and then sit out WWDC. Many suspect he may be part of the “team of Apple executives” that is backing up Phil Schiller for the keynote presentation.
  • iPhone Magnetometer, FM Transmitter/Receiver — These are two new pieces of iPhone internal hardware that have gotten a lot of press, and seem to be fairly safe bets for inclusion in the new iteration. I also think they’re fairly safe bets because they’re not without precedent, as both have been included in other devices that compete with the iPhone (the G1 and the upcoming Zune HD, for instance).

It Could Happen

Some things remain firmly in the realm of possibility, despite there being little actual evidence to support them, and it not necessarily looking likely that they’ll make an appearance. Still, without the long shots, what would we have to look forward to?

  • Large-format Touch Tablet Device — We all want one, and Apple knows it, and it wouldn’t have to abandon its high-minded ideals regarding netbooks to deliver one. Just give us a really big iPod touch. That’s all we’re asking for. We know you have one lying around, anyway. Put it into production. Please.
  • $99 4GB iPhone — There’s at least some evidence to suggest this could really happen, and it comes from my native land. I’m not so sure about the front-facing video camera (iChat video) that is also listed on the same slide that Fido has for this model, but maybe that was just a typo. Apple does know you sell more things by making them cheaper, but it seems not to really mind that rule most of the time.
  • iPhone Capable of Background Processing — Push notification is guaranteed, but many users aren’t satisfied with that, especially when the Palm (s palm) Pre supports true multi-tasking. iPhone users don’t like being behind in any significant way, so it’s possible Apple’s next iPhone could pack enough processing power to support true multi-tasking.

Not a Chance

These are things you will not see, no matter how hard you close your eyes and wish for them to be true.

  • Mac Netbook — Apple hates them, and in practice, our own David Klein also hates them. I don’t really like or use mine that much. A Mac version might be different, but I’m willing to bet it would still start being a dust-collector very quickly.
  • iPhone Nano — This perpetually recurring fanboi’s dream will never be real. Deal with it.
  • Verizon Partnership — Choice is a great thing, but iPhone users will have to go without for at least another year, as it doesn’t look like any Verizon partnership will be forthcoming in 2009. So much for selling twice the units.

Feel free to agree, disagree, and add your own predictions below.

12 Responses to “WWDC 2009: Rumor Round-Up Ahead of the Big Show”

  1. Any thoughts on a full iMac update? The recent spec bump was long overdue and didn’t really change the overall guts of the machine much. Especially with the imminent launch of Snow Leopard, would you expect them to push out the consumer-level hardware that’s optimised for the OS?

  2. Matt J

    Craig Hockenberry had a good theory on a Jobs appearance. He suggests that the new iPhone could have iChat video on it, and that Jobs will be part of the demo for that.
    With regard to the Macbook, I believe that the unibody Macbook and Macbook pro will both be updated, with probably just a hardware refresh, but possibly something more. Apple doesn’t seem to be done with the white Macbook, as it has been very recently refreshed, it looks to be sticking around.
    It is also seems entirely likely that a release date for Snow Leopard will be set, as this seems like the only opportunity they have to demo it pre-release, since they pulled out of MacWorld.

  3. I certainly wouldn’t put a Steve Jobs appearance under “good odds,” if Jobs was to appear at this next keynote, from then on people would expect him to make a “surprise appearance” at every keynote that he isn’t scheduled to be in. In the long run it would be a really bad move.

    I’m not saying that Apple wouldn’t want to risk it, a Jobs appearance would bump the stock price up quite a bit but it really shouldn’t be placed under the heading of “good odds.”