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It’s nearly time for Apple fans to see what the company has in store for developers: Apple’s(s aapl) Worldwide Developer Conference takes place next week. We’ll be joining Apple at San Francisco’s Moscone Center with a live blog of the keynote on Monday at 10am PT.
What will the focus of that keynote be, and will there be any hints or launches of new hardware? We don’t have to wait too long to find out, but here’s what I’m expecting, hoping and predicting Apple will show off.
Like winter, OS X 10.10 is coming
So it may or may not be called OS X 10.10 — OS X squared, perhaps? — but the next major software iteration for Macs will surely be discussed front and center.
Apple has gradually transitioned certain apps and features that were once Mac-only over to iOS as well. No, OS X isn’t iOS and I don’t see the two becoming one next week. But I do expect more blending of shared gestures or other user interface bits between the two, with OS X borrowing some of the flatness of the iOS environment for better cohesiveness. And here’s a long-shot prediction: OS X running on ARM-based chips, which could add another interesting product line to Apple’s mix. I’m also hoping Apple will finally add AirDrop support between OS X and iOS.
New iMacs likely, but not a new MacBook Air
While OS X 10.10 is a future product, OS X 10.9.4 is already available in a developer preview and it strongly hints at new iMacs.
These could just be slight revisions to the existing iMac line; however, I think it’s time for a retina display iMac. Apple has worked on display scaling for 4K monitors in recent OS X updates and if the company can source quality 4K displays for an iMac, I think OS X is ready to handle it in Apple’s all-in-one computer. Some are hoping for a retina display MacBook Air, and my four eyes would love that.
Since the Air was recently upgraded with a small processor bump, though, I don’t expect further updates happening until later this year, at the soonest. A higher resolution MacBook Air would be a nice surprise though and by dropping the price of the entry-level Air last month, Apple may have made room for it now.
So long, iOS 7. It’s time to talk iOS 8
Love it or hate it, I think the flat UI of iOS 7 is here to stay for at least another year or two.
As a result, I’m not expecting iOS 8 to look much different. However, it could enable new ways to multitask on a mobile device — allowing two apps to be used at once on the iPad, for instance. If Apple does show that off — the WSJ’s Brian Chen says it’s not ready for prime-time — I’m thinking a larger “iPad Pro” could follow late this year, because a bigger screen would be helpful for this multitasking approach.
An improved notification screen is also on my radar. And Apple is very likely to add its own native Healthbook app to iOS as the battle for quantified-self data heats up. The app is expected to be your one-stop data source for the quantified self.
Watch, too, for details on how iOS apps will work with smart home products as Apple certifies connected accessories and sensors. More of a wish than a prediction is to see Apple expand Siri’s capabilities, possibly opening the software up for developers to tap into.
To iWatch or not to iWatch
Any Apple wearable at this point is likely to be more than just a watch; instead, it would likely focus on health data. Given that Samsung tried to beat Apple out of the gate with a new health-related sensor platform this week, and since Healthbook will likely be included in iOS, we could finally see the debut of the iWatch. I don’t think it will be called that but frankly, I don’t have a better name. iBand or iWear, perhaps?
Such a device will likely be hybrid: One that works with your phone for its connection to the web but also one that can work by itself for health and entertainment functions. I expect some integrated storage for audio files, for example. New Bluetooth headphones from Apple would pair nicely with a smartwatch like this. Basic health tracking data could also be stored on the device and later pushed over to an iPhone and then to the cloud.
A bigger iPhone now or later? Probably later, but…
It’s not unheard of for Apple to introduce a new iPhone at WWDC: The iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 both made their debut at Apple’s yearly developer event, for example. Since then, Apple has pushed iPhone launches into the late summer or early fall. This year, though, there’s been talk of two new iPhone models: One with a 4.7-inch display and one with an even larger screen.
Apple could surprise us by showing off the smaller of the two now, as developers will need time to adjust their software for the bigger, higher-resolution screen (it’s looking like a 1704 x 960 display at this point). An even bigger surprise, if Apple shows off a larger iPhone 6, would be immediate availability; I still think new iPhones won’t actually be sold until September of this year. Expect the new iPhone to lose its current hard edges and be replaced with more curves in a thinner design similar to the iPod touch.
A head in the clouds
I have to believe that iCloud will at least be discussed at WWDC. Hopefully, storage pricing is reduced as the current cost structure is relatively high compared the many alternatives on the market. I’d also like to see some additional apps from Apple make their way to the web, joining the iWorks line, Mail, Contact, Calendar and Notes. Here’s a strange thought: Perhaps Apple will decide there’s something to be said for online apps — Google(s goog) and Microsoft(s msft) already believe this — and we’ll see a way for developers to get their own apps onto your iCloud dashboard. A Beats Music app would be an easy candidate — but of course, that’s now an Apple product.
One more thing
Isn’t it time the Apple TV saw an update? While there haven’t been any recent whispers of new content deals — something that would hint at an updated set-top box — competitors have jumped into this space.
Think of Google’s $35 Chromecast and, more recently, Amazon’s(s amzn) $99 Fire TV which has integrated voice search. Even if Apple TV is “just a hobby” it’s a lucrative one that I don’t see becoming stagnant for Apple: It wouldn’t surprise me to see some new development here, regardless of whether it’s based on hardware or software. Maybe both?