The Slowness of WWDC Speculation

May 24th, 2017

As I write this column, we’re only days away from the WWDC keynote, which is scheduled for Monday June 5th. Tech pundits have been looking at Apple’s media invitation for the event, desperately seeking clues, but guesses about what’ll happen are only narrowly focused.

Obviously, Apple may surprise us in some ways, but these events tend to be very predictable in most respects. By the time the day of the keynote arrives, most of the expected announcements are fairly obvious. There will be a few surprises, no doubt, but not as many as there used to be.

This is particularly true of hardware. When new gear is due, dealer supplies will suddenly dry up. But that sometimes happens even when we’re between product cycles as inventories fluctuate. Besides, new hardware at a WWDC is not always a given. But this year, with a dearth of new iPads and Macs, things may change.

So I’ve culled a few of the most probable product intros.

Of course, there will be an iOS 11. Perhaps there will be more social networking features, but that doesn’t mean people will give up on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and WhatsApp. It will just provide yet another alternative; more likely Messages were do more things.

I would like to see more attention devoted to iPad users. While there are logical changes to allow for the larger screen real estate, and more robust multitasking, Apple can surely do more. I’d like to see sandboxing expansions to allow for more entitlements, so a wider range of apps can talk to one another. I’ve often mentioned the ability to capture mixed audio from one or more sources in a single app, such as from Skype and a connected mic. But I’m being self-serving here.

Without mimicking the Mac’s approach, perhaps Apple can expand multitasking capability to make the iPad more useful as a productive device. With sales falling, and Apple maintaining the commitment to its tablet platform, surely there are things that can be done in iOS to make iPads more attractive to potential buyers or upgraders.

I’m drawing a blank about macOS. Whether it’s called 10.13 or — just maybe — macOS 11, a greater focus on stability and reliability would be helpful. I have very few issues with Sierra, but I see others complaining that Apple is falling down on the job. Unfortunately, Apple isn’t allowing for macOS reviews in the App Store, though some issues do show up in their discussion forums.

And wouldn’t an iOS 11 and a macOS 11 make for more consistent branding? I’ll set watchOS 4 and tvOS 11 aside.

The most obvious WWDC hardware preview is the Mac Pro. Apple promised an all-new, more modular model, but not this year. But maybe there will be a brief demonstration of a work-in-progress, with the promise of release in the first part of 2018. The 2013 Mac Pro was launched at that year’s WWDC. All this obviously depends on whether a final form factor and feature set have been nailed down.

Recent rumors point to refreshes for the MacBook and MacBook Pro, using Intel Kaby Lake processors. They weren’t available last year in the configurations Apple uses. There’s also speculation about an update to the MacBook Air, which is supposedly in maintenance mode. But if sales are still good, perhaps something will be done. But I wouldn’t expect to see a Retina display. I thought the MacBook was its ultimate successor.

I did ask a few fellow tech writers whether Apple is ready to do a little price cutting for its notebooks, and the response was a big, broad “no” But the MacBook is overdue for a lower list price.

Nothing is being said about an iMac with pro features, or any iMac. But how about the Mac mini?

There are ongoing rumors about an Apple answer to the Amazon Echo. Would that mean a Siri smart speaker of some sort? But didn’t Apple marketing VP Philip Schiller denigrate the Echo because it lacked a display, days before it got one? So would a Siri system include a display? Do we really need such a device, when there is already an iPhone?

And what about the iPad?

Rumors about the arrival of a new form factor with a 10.5-inch edge-to-edge display came and went earlier this year. Apple ended up delivering a fifth generation model consisting of the original iPad Air case with faster parts and a cheaper price. But there’s talk about the new iPad form factor, and perhaps an update to the iPad Pro. Would that suit a WWDC? I suppose it could, if Apple is going to tout productivity features, and perhaps introduce an Apple Pencil 2.

I do not expect to see a new iPhone. One pundit suggested the iPhone 8 would be demonstrated, but that would do nothing but gut sales of existing models. In fact, ongoing rumors about what’s to come are, according to Apple, already hurting sales. So expect a rumor of this sort to be a big non-starter.

I also do not expect to see a third-generation Apple Watch or an updated Apple TV. The WWDC is definitely the wrong place for such products.

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One Response to “The Slowness of WWDC Speculation”

  1. dfs says:

    One thing Apple just might unveil is a greatly improved Siri. Who hasn’t had trouble getting Siri to understand what he’s saying? Siri just isn’t very good at interpreting individual vocal habits, regional accents and what have you, and since Siri is a centralized system it has no learning capacity at the user’s end. The easy and obvious solution would be simply to allow us to spell words when Siri misunderstands us. In any event, Apple wants Siri to play an increasingly important role in the overall Apple ecosystem (it’s now available on the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Watch and Car Play, soon to be joined by Apple’s answer to Amazon’s Echo and the “smart house” technology that will control), and to uphold the quality of the experience this ecosystem provides it is necessary for Apple to clean up Siri’s act. I’m sure Apple is working on this night and day, and maybe the WWDC is the time they can announce significant improvement.

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