Moscone West in San Francisco ready for WWDC 2014

Moscone West in San Francisco ready for WWDC 2014 | Flickr

Things may have been quiet around these parts (the pressures of life) but two things seemingly never change. The first is that I never stop loving the Apple rumour game (and the associated news cycle), and the second is that those that know me, both online and off, never lose the impression of me as the person to go to to find out the latest Apple gossip. It’s a bit like your friends discovering that you’re “that guy” that knows how to fix their Windows PC and never being able to step foot in a house without being pounced upon with a problem—yesterday I visited a friends new house, within 15 seconds of arriving I was staring at the admin panel of their internet router.

So over the last month or so I’ve been discretely jotting down notes of what the people around me ask about the Apple rumoursphere in a hope of forming a short ‘conversation piece’ (think of it like a glorified Q and A) to cover the pertinent elements as we head into Apple’s only conference, and therefore only guaranteed event of the year.

Anecdotally what I do note is that people ask less, people are interested a little less in what Apple is up to. Whether this can be attributed to Apple “losing it’s cool” or not is another wider discussion. And probably something for a wider pool or people.

What is WWDC and why should I care?

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is as of recent years the company’s only headline event. Whilst Apple is almost guaranteed to host other events later in the year, this event signals the start of the busy season but also sits firmly in the calendar—as it has done for years.

Traditionally the event focused on developers and their needs, and in some cases was not a very consumer facing event. But with the demise of Macworld several years ago it’s been the job of WWDC to be a consumer focused event and to be the flashy show off keynote that we all remember Macworld to be (just look at 2007 to see why). But the only part of WWDC that is consumer focused is the opening two hours, what is known as the opening keynote.

WWDC has in the past hosted all sorts of announcements, from nothing of interest to consumers all the way up to iPhone releases, but in recent years has shifted to a software focus—this year is expected to be no different.

Why should you care? I dunno, you’re the one asking me the question.

What happens after the keynote?

Well after the keynote there are two large sessions that happen effecttively behind closed doors. The press are ushered out the building and the next keynote is called the ‘State of the Union’, this is a very frank and detailed look at the current status of Apple’s hardware, software, and services. This is the best insight into Apple’s future direction as an outsider is ever likely to get. Following this event is the Apple Design Awards (ADAs as their affectionately known) which are exactly as you’d expect.

The rest of the week is formed of sessions focused on individual aspects of OS X, iOS, and services. It is after all an event focused on harbouring good developer habits and by extension awesome software.

So the new iPhone (insert other iOS device) is coming out Monday?

In short, no.

Apple hasn’t released (or announced) an iPhone at WWDC since 2010 (iPhone 4) and appears to be firmly embedded into an annual cycle of announcing iPhones in late September. I conveniently wrote this a few years back to explain the relationship between Apple’s software releases and at what point the hardware comes. But in short, you can’t develop major software upgrades without developers testing on it first and Apple’s doesn’t flaunt new iOS hardware without giving it some shiny new software to go along with it.

This is a software only show then?

Now you’re getting it. Don’t discount the idea of some hardware but we’ll come to that.

It’s a dead cert that we’ll see iOS 8 and OS X (Yosemite?) to be shown off on Monday.

What about hardware though? I bloody love hardware.

Tim Cook said earlier in the year that Apple will be releasing products “across 2014″ which is not entirely true so far. There’s also a whole lot of hardware that is due a refresh or going to be refreshed because it happens anyway.

iPhones and iPads will get refreshed in late September/early October. The Apple TV is expected to be refreshed later in the year or early next year and iPods (or should I say iPod touch) usually slot in around the iPhone and iPad releases to coincide with the release of iOS.

Mac hardware is getting overdue in some cases with only the MacBook Air getting a minor refresh so far this year. Which leaves the MacBook Pro, iMac (that’s a WWDC nope), the Mac mini, and Thunderbolt Display as possible options. Traditionally if Mac hardware is in the WWDC keynote then it’s pro focused.

There are of course some outliers such as the long rumoured “iWatch”, a larger iPad, and more recently an ARM-powered Mac. I wouldn’t hold your breath for any of them.

Software then, what’s in store next week?

Well two big announcements as outlined above, we’re expecting iOS 8 which is the software that runs on your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, and a majorly revamped OS X which runs on your Mac. Think of it as the reverse of last year, iOS got all the attention and this year OS X will get most of it.

I’ve got an iPhone so that sounds good

Last year came iOS 7, you’ll probably remember that because it was the biggest overhaul to iOS since the iPhone was released in 2007. And when you eventually installed it on your phone in September it completely changed everything, and it was a bit buggy.

iOS 8 is expected to be an evolution of 7 with some impressive additional features piled on top. Unfortunately it looks like Monday’s announcement could be a little hobbled by some features not being show ready.

Purported screenshot showing Apple's upcoming HealthBook App

Purported screenshot showing Apple’s upcoming HealthBook App

Healthbook is expected to be Apple’s headline feature. It’s expected to be an app (like Passbook) that aggregates information from lots of sources like other apps and hardware accessories. This data is based around health and fitness and could be setting up future hardware releases based around fitness monitoring (think the Fitbit or Nike Fuel Band).

Healthbook will be capable of tracking data for heart rate, blood pressure, nutrition, blood sugar, sleep, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, weight, and activity

Healthbook will also look at things like steps, calories burnt, miles walked. Something that’s already possible with the M7 in the iPhone 5s, albeit through third party apps.

Maps will also feature heavily in iOS 8. Apple will continue its efforts to compete with Google and will bring a big overhaul to the mapping data presented through the Maps app including the long awaited transit information that has caused the big surge in third parties over the last couple of years. Maps is one of the features that may not be demoed or be ready to ship with iOS 8 when it finally hits the market in September.

Song identification in Siri is an additional feature that’s expected to hit the ever expanding repertoire of Siri features. Ask Siri what song is playing and it’ll come back to you with a song ID, according to sources this feature is being done in partnership with Shazam.

There’s also expected to be further third party integration like there is now with OpenTable and Wolfram Alpha. Think along the lines of being able to reserve a car rental or a hotel.

Notifications will also see a minor overhaul, notably the rather useless ‘Missed’ tab will vanish in favour of just ‘Today’ and ‘Notifications’ with the latter receiving a cleanup. It’s unknown whether Apple will continue to expand the features of ‘Today’, the company has recently acquired a company called Cue who focused on personal assistant features.

Apple is said to be designing iOS versions of Preview and TextEdit that’ll sync over iCloud with their Mac counterparts. It’s currently rumoured that these apps will be view only apps with editing functionality being encouraged by other apps, notably Pages for the latter.

Leaked screenshot of iOS 8

Leaked screenshot of iOS 8

A rather odd rumour but backed by numerous good sources is plan to offer split screen apps on iPad in iOS 8. This would be a feature similar to that of the Microsoft Surface where two apps can be displayed side-by-side. This feature is poised to make it easier to share information between apps and to reference other apps but raises questions about how the mode would be entered (without the existence of windows) and how developers would prepare their apps for half size operation.

It’s now claimed that the feature won’t make it to WWDC.

And finally iTunes Radio is expected to be broken out as a standalone app to help compete with its competitors. The recent acquisition of Beats will play no part in Apple’s current music offering until early 2015 at best so Apple will continue to push the uptake of iTunes Radio as its offering to compete with other streaming services even though recent comments by Apple’s Eddy Cue may have indicated that Apple doesn’t see Radio as a streaming service as such.

That’s not wildly impressive, what about OS X then?

For the first time in a long time it looks like OS X is going to be the centre of attention. The most rumoured update to OS X 10.10 (Yosemite is the best bet for a name) is a brand new look. The best rumours suggest Jony Ive and his team have spread their iOS 7 look over to the Mac and now the operating system will feature bring colours, lots of white space, sharp corners, a lack of depth, and icons and text designed for higher resolution displays.

Apple won’t just leave it at a redesign though, and is also expected to port over some iOS features such as Control Centre, Siri, and cross platform AirDrop.

OS X 10.10 banners going up inside Moscone West this week

OS X 10.10 banners going up inside Moscone West this week

The ancillary apps to OS X are also expected to slowly be ported over to the new look with iLife and iWork apps being the usual suspects for demo during a WWDC keynote. Those who watched last year will remember the cringe-worthy demo of iWork’s cloud based features.

That’s it?

Looks like it.

Keynotes follow a fairly set structure, opening with some message about Apple’s current stance (last year was design, previous years were cross of liberal arts and technology) probably something around the ‘Your Verse’ advertising campaign followed by a run down of stats. Then jump through the executives and their related products until a summary at the end.

How exciting, when and where?

Well if you want to see it in person then you’re out of luck unless you’re currently in San Francisco and have splashed out $1500. But luckily Apple will be streaming the keynote online for all to see.

Apple’s WWDC 2014 kicks off Monday June 2 at the following times:

  • 10:00AM – Pacific
  • 11:00AM – Mountain
  • 12:00PM – Central
  • 1:00PM – Eastern
  • 6:00PM – London
  • 7:00PM – Paris
  • 9:00PM – Moscow
  • 2:00AM – Tokyo (Tuesday 3rd)
  • 4:00AM – Sydney (Tuesday 3rd)

World of Apple will provide detailed analysis after the keynote and during the week. Follow myself @alexbrooks on Twitter for regular updates on WWDC goings on and the keynote and follow @worldofapple for major announcements.