WWDC 2015; five things we expect to see from Apple

Nate Swanner - Apr 14, 2015, 1:27 pm CST
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WWDC 2015; five things we expect to see from Apple

The last year or so has been an exciting one for Apple, with significant product refreshes made across the board. We’ve also seen two new products introduced with Apple Watch and MacBook. Some of the whispers circulating after Apple’s second Watch event suggested they’d exhausted themselves, and there would be little left for WWDC. Though a lot has come to pass lately, maybe Apple got some of their light work off the desks around campus, and are about to make even bigger things happen. Curious what may be in store? Read on.

Apple TV

We’d heard all the rumors about Apple TV getting a refresh, and it may be exactly what you want. Smaller, more modern hardware that looks nice on your mantle, and a remote that adds a different kind of context to your viewing experience (perhaps even voice).

Is that it, though? New hardware — pretty big deal for Apple TV. I don’t think that’s it for Apple TV at WWDC. I believe we’ll see an actual refresh to the Apple TV platform. Several reports suggest Apple has been in discussions with content providers to bring something different to the table.

We may see the very same thing we got from HBO earlier this year, when NOW came to Apple TV. My guess is that Apple follows Sling TV down the ‘streaming TV via Internet’ hole, and adds some much needed support to the new-look Television business. Some reports even suggest Apple is leaning on networks to provide their own streaming.

What will be interesting is the price point. At their Apple Watch event, Apple announced their TV streaming set-top box would get a price reduction to $69. Can they keep new hardware with an over-the-top subscription plan affordable, or will they just keep the legacy hardware at $69, and roll in new hardware at $99? Also, what will Apple charge for TV streaming?

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HomeKit

Where are you, HomeKit? We know you exist, but where are you? At WWDC 2014, Apple announced HomeKit. Looking back, it was a pony-expressed letter to the competition that Apple intended to march on them in a fortnight. One year on, still no HomeKit hardware.

Along the way, Apple has been slowly letting the leash out on their MFi program, which provides a series of hoops for third-party OEMs to jump through in order to make a HomeKit device. All indications are that MFi is a much more solid platform now, and partners are lining their cannons up to bombard us with HomeKit stuff.

On the other side, Developers have been able to toy with HomeKit functionality since Xcode 6, so everyone has had a full year or so to get their act together on HomeKit — Apple included. Don’t expect hair Craig Federighi to re-announce what HomeKit is; expect him to give product demos and discuss new products you can get in the Apple Store soon, if not same-day.

At WWDC, I expect HomeKit will finally be ready for the masses. Some also point to Apple TV being used as a hub for HomeKit, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple also had a ‘home’ channel for their TV platform. And a voice-controlled remote would make Siri your home concierge.

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OS X & Developers

You may get a new version of Yosemite announced at WWDC. That latest OS X might even have some neat bells and whistles, especially if you’ve got a Force Touch trackpad. That’s not what we’re here for, though.

WWDC might give consumers new stuff to talk about, but it’s a Developer’s conference. I expect WWDC is when OS X development will change, just like iOS development morphed last year with Swift.

If you’re not familiar with the back-end differences between the two platforms, you’re probably not a developer. If you’re not a developer, let me say there’s a reason iOS gets a lot of attention, a lot more apps, and many more productivity services — and it’s not just popularity of the hardware.

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OS X is based on some tired, dated frameworks that have essentially seen their end of line. AppKit has been around since NeXT, and is still good, but bonking it’s head on the glass ceiling.

With OS X Yosemite, Apple made OS X pretty. The same happened with iOS 7. When we got iOS 8, we also got Swift, which was like dropping an F1 racer on the ground with its wheels running; once it gets a bit of traction, look out. I think we’ll see the same with OS X in 2015.

I’m not saying OS X development will suddenly be done in Swift, but I do expect Apple to bridge the gap between their two platforms via app development. The fun bet is on one app — even a slightly different version of it — running across all your Apple screens. Interoperability must occur for that to happen, so look to Apple to update OS X development.

If I’m wishing, I want straight-up Swift for OS X. If I’m conservative, I just want Apple to merge much of the ‘kits’ together so OS X has some breathing room and familiarity for Developers who focus on iOS. OS X could use some really good apps, and a lot more of them. Bridging the gap would also give Devs a new monetization strategy, and as the App Store gets crowded, opening up the old dance hall with a new dance floor might give everyone some breathing room.

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Music

That new Music app from Apple in the iOS 8.4 Developer preview is basically a precursor. Sure, it reflects a facelift for iTunes, but think a bit harder and Apple’s direction starts to take shape.

Music — cool name. Like Beats Music. Beats, which Apple just purchased, was widely believed to give them the muscle needed for a streaming effort, but there has also been talk that Apple would make Beats their music brand.

There was also talk Beats would somehow be re-branded under the iTunes umbrella. Seems like ‘Music’ is a happy medium, there.

Also, the app itself smacks of a trojan horse for streaming. As many have pointed out, the layout and feature set would make it really easy for Apple to just open up shop for streaming.

As-is, the app is still really useful for those who want to forgo streaming altogether and continue to buy music. It’s the one app we can all use, regardless of how we consume music digitally.

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Watch this

In reviews, Apple Watch has received a rather cool reception. Though exciting, not many are seeing a reason to crave it. Yet.

Expect Apple to already be working on fixes for issues made evident in reviews. Siri’s lag, for instance, was likely very evident to Apple well ahead of those reviews coming out. I’m also sure Apple is working on a fix for the battery life in the Apple Watch.

I’d also expect Apple to announce native apps coming to Apple Watch at WWDC 2015. Currently, we can’t get native apps, but Apple says we will at some point. Whether or not they’re ready to bring it to Developers same-day, I don’t know. A lot of other stuff depends on apps going native (a kit, Xcode changes, etc.), but I expect Apple to at least discuss native Apple Watch apps more in-depth.

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Is that it

Nope.

Apple will probably give us a lot more little tweaks to discuss, but I think WWDC is changing. With beta programs for OS X and iOS, much of the surprise is taken out of WWDC announcements. It used to be “here’s something cool now go download it”.

I still expect (read: want) Apple to come down from their iCloud cloud and get competitive with pricing. There may also be small changes to Swift and Metal, as well as some news about various APIs and SDKs. Still, we’re not going to be surprised about stuff we know about.

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And therein lies the intrigue. What we know is cool, but what has Apple kept in their back pocket? Swift took us by surprise last year, and it’s proven to be something amazing so far. We also didn’t know about ResearchKit ahead of time, and it has the chance to actually do a lot of good.

Hardware is pretty much final at this point, but software has a lot of room to grow. I think the WWDC keynote will be consumed by Music and the introduction of streaming — as well as Apple TV and that new-look platform — but I also think Apple will continue to iterate in new ways that just add folds to their already fairly deep apps and services.


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