What We Could See at Apple’s WWDC

WWDC 2014

Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is scheduled to take place June 2-6 in San Francisco, and whatever the company unveils on stage is likely to send tech punditry into its usual froth of speculation and angst. For developers and programmers who work regularly with either iOS or Mac OS X, though, the conference serves a much more practical purpose, offering a preview of whatever Apple has in its pipeline.

So what’s Apple likely to show off this year?

Click here for iOS-related jobs.

New Mac OS X: Up through Mac OS X 10.8, Apple named each successive version of its PC operating system after a big cat (Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, etc.); with Mavericks (Mac OS X 10.9), however, the company has shifted to naming the latest version after a location in California. So if Apple rolls out Mac OS X 10.10 at this year’s WWDC, what code name will it attach? Hollywood? Sonoma? Oakland?

Names (and joking) aside, it’s likely that any new version of Mac OS X will continue Apple’s slow incorporation of iOS elements, which previously imported apps such as iBooks (not to mention an App Store) and the Launchpad. In fact, Mac OS X 10.10 could abandon its skeuomorphic tendencies in favor of a “flatter” icon and UX design that more closely emulates what’s happening on the iPad and iPhone. On the practical side of the equation, Apple could also port Siri APIs and other, developer-friendly elements.

New iOS: The current iOS 7 proved somewhat controversial upon its unveiling at last year’s WWDC. Some consumers rebelled at the bright colors and altered icons; others disliked the parallax effect that gave the interface the illusion of depth (and made a few people nauseous in the bargain). It’s pretty certain that, if Apple introduces iOS 8 at this year’s WWDC, it’ll show off software with iterative advances, such as improved icons.

In order to better compete with Google Now, Google’s voice-activated digital assistant, Siri might also receive improvements, including tighter integration with other Apple services. Apple might unveil a new-and-improved Maps app; and if the company plans on integrating NFC (Near-Field Communication, which allows devices to talk to one another—and can transform a smartphone in contact with a specially equipped register into a digital wallet) into the next iPhone, software support for that technology should appear in iOS 8. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also scuttlebutt about the iPhone serving as a “smart home” controller.

Last year, Apple introduced a fingerprint reader with the iPhone 5S, allowing the user to verify purchases and unlock his or her phone without inputting a password. With the next version of iOS, Apple could radically expand that technology’s footprint, especially if it decides to give third-party developers access.

Apple TV: For months, rumors have persisted that Apple has a major Apple TV revamp in the works, one that could introduce games and apps to the platform. Such upgrades would allow Apple to better compete against Amazon, which recently introduced the gaming-capable Kindle Fire TV. If Apple wants its developers focused on building television-centric apps and games, WWDC could prove the best venue for letting them know.

Beats: If Apple’s closed its rumored acquisition of Beats Electronics, executives will likely announce that fact at WWDC. Beats Electronics founders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, if they join Apple as executives, would serve as powerful assets in any negotiations for content with music labels.

What Apple’s Unlikely to Introduce: The next iPhone, iPad, and much-rumored “smartwatch” are unlikely to make appearances at WWDC, as Apple will almost certainly want to reserve separate events for whatever flagship hardware it chooses to roll out over the next year. That will only frustrate Wall Street investors and tech pundits, who want Apple to plunge into new product categories—but if Apple has demonstrated anything over the years, it’s a willingness to make people wait for new products.

Related Stories

Image: Apple