WWDC 2012: What’s not there is more interesting

Jun 9, 2012
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Rumors ahead of Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference 2012 (WWDC 2012) are flying thick and fast, with speculation, leaks and rumors all mounting as to what Tim Cook & Co. will reveal in the opening keynote. Apple puts on a good show, that's for certain, but it's sometimes more interesting to look at what doesn't make it to the stage than what products and services get their moment under the spotlight. Could this be the inflexion point for some old favorites, and how do the pre-show whispers fit in?

Apple's range has been steadily expanding over the past few years, as the company fleshes out its own take on a balanced computing portfolio. Having famously avoided joining the (arguably short-lived) netbook fray, instead positioning the iPad as a tablet mid-point between smartphone and laptop, Apple now has two tablet variants, a few notebook lines, several desktop options and more.

It's arguably time, then, for that range to contract some. Apple has always been about paring things back to the essentials, and that leaves some excess fat that could be trimmed. The 17-inch MacBook Pro is the most obvious candidate, already a minority seller in comparison to more popular 13- and 15-inch variants. Although it might come as a disappointment to mobile media editing pros, binning the 17-incher in favor of a push around the 15-inch and an external display makes more sense for Apple's bottom line.

Mac Pro addicts have been crying out for a new model for months now, meanwhile, though Apple has perhaps been waiting on a new generation of capable processors to make an upgrade worthwhile. Again, though, the fear is that the Mac Pro range could contract altogether - one variant rather than the quad, six and eight core options currently presented - targeting the top-flight crowd, with everyone else expected to make do with either the iMac or, again with a large display, Ivy Bridge under the hood, and a clutch of Thunderbolt-connected peripherals and drives, a new MacBook Pro.

[aquote]The new iPhone is not expected to make its debut until later[/aquote]

Apple's new iPhone is, generally, not expected to make its debut until later in the year, but iOS 6 is already known to be on the schedule for WWDC. As we've seen the company do before, a showcase of ten or eleven top-tier features is most likely on the cards, something to whet our appetites ahead of its probable release alongside the new smartphone. Despite persistent analyst talk of a smaller iPad, that seems highly improbable at this stage; a peek at Siri for the new iPad stands a better chance of appearing, though Apple will presumably continue to shy away from adding multi-user support for the tablet. That, after all, might tempt you to buy just one for the whole family, rather than one each.

As for the glitter, expect an Apple TV SDK but not, yet anyway, the much-discussed Apple television. Although some have predicted a late 2012 debut for the all-in-one set, the most recent whispers has Apple still mired in negotiations around cable-cutting packages of content. From everything we've heard to-date, Apple wants its television to be more than just "a TV with Apple TV built-in", and for that it needs a game-changer in content, too.

On a similar level, the Siri SDK for third-party developers may well be missing from this week's show; or, if it's present, in a diluted form rather than broad interaction with any old app. The complexity of understanding a broad range of commands - not to mention the likely impact on Apple's voice servers - means we may see a far smaller palette of third-party Siri functionality initially, with Apple likely in no great rush to open the floodgates to its still-in-beta service.

Nonetheless, we're still expecting some fireworks from next week's show; even if Apple "only" delivers a new line-up of Macs, that alone would be enough to get the cash registers ringing. SlashGear will be liveblogging the whole WWDC 2012 opening keynote, so join us from 10AM PST on June 11 at live.slashgear.com for all the news as it happens!


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