Here's what's (probably) coming, not what's not

What to realistically expect at Apple’s WWDC 2014 event next Monday




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Another day, another dollar. Another June, another WWDC conference. Last year Apple bestowed upon us the new, Jony Ive-ified iOS version, iOS 7 – with its colorful hues, stark white backgrounds, and gradients – oh, the gradients – and it was the talk of the metaphorical town. But iOS 7 is so last year – let’s fine out what Apple has in store for us this year. This is – once again – what to realistically expect at Apple’s WWDC 2014 event, taking place next Monday, June 2nd… and not what’s not.

What to realistically expect…” is a series of posts which we use to temper expectations concerning upcoming Apple events. We’ve got a pretty good track record here, with only one small miss with our iPhone 5s/5c event predictions.

Let’s get this out of the way now – the introduction of iOS 8, a (fairly minor) refinement of iOS 7. 
As has been the trend for Apple in recent years, it’s nothing if not a sure thing that Apple will be revealing their next major version of iOS next Monday, this time coming in the form of iOS 8. Given that Apple just gave iOS its largest upgrade ever just last year, it stands to say that iOS 8 will be a refinement rather than a revolution. We’re talking about some minor design tweaks (but nothing that will get the small but vocal group of iOS 7 haters excited), some feature additions, and – though we won’t know it yet – improved support for Apple’s upcoming 2014 iPhone lineup… which we won’t hear a single thing about next week, by the way.

What seems to be a sure shot at this point is what Apple’s calling Healthbook, an entirely new bundled application slated to be revealed next week that essentially will act as a central portal for users to dump their health information in. It’ll presumably allow you to keep track of your weight, exercise, etc. and so forth. It will likely also serve as a point of integration with Apple’s upcoming wearables initiative – whether that be the iWatch or whatever – which, by the way, will not be making an introduction next week. A set of leaked screenshots, seen below and believed to be genuine, also reveals that Apple may be planning on bundling in new Preview, TextEdit, and Tips applications to better integrate with OS X on iCloud.

iOS 8 will likely be introduced next week, with an official release coming later this year – likely around the September time frame – as an upgrade for existing iPhones. We believe iOS 8 will drop support for the iPhone 4, while continuing to support the iPhone 4S and later. The iPad 2 and up, original iPad mini and up, and fifth-generation iPod touch and up will also be supported.

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Here’s the big one – it’s back to the Mac as OS X gets the Jony Ive treatment with OS X 10.10 – which will never be referred to as OS X 10.10, by the way.
Get your MacBooks prepped for an upgrade, because Apple will be revealing their next major version of OS X for their Mac line of computers, OS X 10.10 – which still doesn’t have an official name, by the way. While Mac OS X hasn’t seen a significant visual overhaul probably since Apple shed the Aqua pretense with OS X Leopard back in 2007, the word on the street is that Apple is getting ready to change the game again by giving OS X 10.10 the Jony Ive treatment. What that means, of course, is that OS X 10.10 will look more or less exactly like iOS 7 – with a flat design, a lot of white, and a lot of gradients.

Nobody’s quite sure as to how far Apple will go with this new design language, but lots of people have tried putting the puzzle pieces together. The general thought right now is that Apple will do enough to give it that iOS 7 vibe without totally rethinking what makes a desktop operating system look like a desktop operating system. Your Mac will still work the same, and you’ll still be able to navigate around your documents and send messages to your friends just like you always have – but now things will just look that much different while you’re doing it.

While I don’t think any of the concepts I’ve seen floating around the web get it exactly right just yet, I think that the concept created by designer Stu Crew – seen below – is as close as you’ll get until next week:

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On the feature front, we believe that this will be another iterative upgrade rather than a revolution. Apple will continue to refine and carefully, quietly add to OS X’s existing feature set instead of focusing on big new features. While it would be nice if Siri would come to OS X – and I think we’ll get there eventually – I’m not 100% convinced that we’ll get something even that significant as Siri in 10.10. Safari meanwhile will get some fairly significant upgrades, drastically improving the rendering and JavaScript speed of Apple’s desktop browser.

Apple enters home automation, with your iPhone as your remote.
Home automation is nothing new – Nest has been doing it for some time now before Google bought them out a couple of months ago, and I guess you could say that Google has been doing it since then; Comcast has had a pretty decent home automation system set in place with their Xfinity service, and countless of other brands have tried their hand as well. A recent rumor published by The Financial Times reveals that Apple will use WWDC 2014 as a launching point for their own home automation initiative.

The service, which will allow home owners to control their own “smart homes”, will act as a way to “turn the iPhone into a remote control for lights, security systems and other household appliances.” There are some interesting possibilities here. The smart home initiative could be smart enough to know to automatically turn on the lights when a person holding an iPhone walks into a room; it could turn an iPhone into a remote control for a television, a radio, or even a thermostat.

Notably, Apple is rumored to be turning this initiative into an ecosystem of its own, creating a new label similar to the company’s current “Made for iPhone” that third party vendors can participate in. That would allow a wide range of manufacturers to assure that their products support Apple’s automation ecosystem, improving customer confidence at the same time. The possibilities here are endless, and although this is a fairly new rumor all things considered, I do believe that this story has a significant nugget of truth to it.

What about updates? The Retina MacBook Pro? That rumored 12-inch Retina MacBook? The iMac – or even the Mac mini?!
We expect Apple to primarily focus on software rather than hardware at this year’s WWDC, and as such we expect minimal to absolutely no updates to the company’s product line. The MacBook Air just received an update earlier this month, so that’s out of the question, while the word on the street is that Apple is holding out on upgrading the MacBook Pro lineup until they’re done prepping their new, 12-inch Retina MacBook model, which is expected to launch early this Fall. The iMac, meanwhile, was updated more recently than other Mac computers and won’t be due for anything until right before the holiday season.

We’re calling this one; outside maybe – maybe – a minor spec update to the Mac mini that could even go unnoticed at the keynote, Apple isn’t planning any new update to their Mac lineup at this event. The same goes, of course, for any new iOS devices; expect the next generation iPhone to be launched sometime early this fall, while the new iPad lineup won’t hit stores until much later this year – probably closer to November.

But given how much new Apple has in store for this event, I’m inclined to say that’s okay. Outside of perhaps the Retina MacBook Pro and the under appreciated Mac mini, Apple’s hardware lineup is in an extremely good place. It’s the software that should – and likely will – steal the show next week, and I can’t wait to see what Apple has up their sleeves.