WWDC 2011 was the last Apple event Steve Jobs would be a part of and one of the last public appearances he made. Since then, Apple has continued to soldier on, adding value to its market cap and releasing new smash hit products like the iPhone 4S last fall and the new Retina iPad and 1080P Apple TV this spring.
This year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, WWDC 2012, will pick up where last year’s event left off. It will introduce major updates to Apple’s mobile and desktop operating system, the cloud-based syncing strategy, and it will bring Mac hardware back to a Mecca of Apple’s top software developers for the first time in three years.
There have been a lot of WWDC predictions, many made on information we made available. Over the past month and change, we’ve revealed the lion’s share of what’s now known about WWDC 2012, and we have some more to share in our highly anticipated WWDC 2012 round-up.
We break down everything you should expect into categories of iOS 6, iCloud updates, OS X Mountain Lion, and the exciting updates to multiple Mac hardware lines. Our complete round-up is available after the break:
iOS 5.0 was the largest single set of changes to iOS since its inception in mid-2007, making it a difficult update for Apple to top this year. That major software release introduced the world to iCloud, the iMessage platform, iOS Twitter-integration, Notification Center, Newsstand, and more. iOS 6 will not top iOS 5 in terms of new features, but, instead, it will be a refined version of the easiest-to-use smartphone, mobile media-player, and tablet software on the planet. The indicator of the idea of a focus on refinements in iOS 6 is that the central elements of iOS 6 hardly differ in appearance from their iOS 5 counterparts. The pick-up-and-play home screen grid of application icons, notifications, app-switching, and Siri all look like their iOS 5 counterparts. So, what’s new?
Goodbye, Google Maps. Hello Maps… from Apple:
In early May, we broke the news that Apple will finally remove the Google connection from the important iOS Maps program.
Except for 3D. Thanks to its purchase of C3 Technologies in 2010, Apple’s new Maps application offers 3D views. To the right is a spy shot of the new Maps app running on an iPhone.
From what we heard, the 3D product is solid but spotty now, but it will improve more and more as data is gathered.
We also heard that turn-by-turn isn’t loaded into all the betas, so it might not be a feature that is ready at launch.
Not just Twitter anymore: Facebook is joining iOS (in a big way):
Apple recognized the power of the fast-moving Twitter social network, so it integrated it into iOS for iOS 5. The less-known story, though, is that Apple actually wanted to build Facebook into iOS 4, and then launch the feature alongside the iPhone 4 in 2010. For likely many reasons (Ping?), the talks between Apple and Facebook fell sometime around early 2010, and Facebook is yet to touch iOS in an integrated fashion.
At WWDC, according to our sources, Apple will announce system-wide Facebook integration into iOS 6. We heard several weeks ago that Apple and Facebook engineers had been working together on hooking Facebook up into the iOS 6 software, but Apple and Facebook executives were still knocking out the precise feature set during their discussions.
Following hints from Apple CEO Tim Cook at the D10 conference, TechCrunch reported that there would be Facebook integration in iOS 6. We followed up with a report detailing this integration, noting that Twitter-like sign-in and content-sharing would be present—especially in the photos application. We also reported that Facebook will be used by Apple to alleviate some of the App Store application discoverability issues: the popular Facebook “like” buttons will come to the iOS App Store on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches. The Facebook liking will become part of a string of new iTunes, App Store, and iBookstore features in iOS 6.
Back to the Mac… now it’s Back to iOS.
OS X Lion—which officially launched at last year’s WWDC—was the original proof of the eventually convergence of the Mac OS and iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch OS. This year’s OS X Mountain Lion takes this phenomenon even further, adopting iOS 5 features like iMessaging, Notification Center, Game Center, AirPlay Mirroring, and more.
Besides taking much of what iOS 5 introduced last year, OS X Mountain Lion introduces some neat new features, notably: the new Mac OS includes priority VIP mail, a way to quickly enable and disable notification banners and alerts; and, a cool new function called iCloud Tabs, an iCloud feature that syncs a list of tabs running on Mac Safari and iOS Safari between Macs, iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches. These three new Mountain Lion features will see life in iOS 6 when it launches this fall.
Apple to move further into China with Chinese search engine in iOS 6:
Apple demonstrated a software push into China with many Chinese-specific options in OS X Mountain Lion, and now iOS 6 is set to add the Chinese search market leader, Baidu, as a new option. Bloomberg first reported the addition and noted Google would likely remain the default iOS web search system.
Siri losing iPhone 4S exclusivity and coming to the iPad:
The iPhone 4S has had exclusive rights to the Siri voice-control system since its launch in October, but, this fall, Apple will bring the neat artificial intelligence-based product to the iPad. Above is our mockup of the Siri voice control system, and, as you can see, the software will not be full-screen. It will take up the bottom portion of the device so users can still read part of what is happening on their iPads. The Siri command options on the iPad are said to be identical to the options on the iPhone 4S, save for phone-exclusive commands.
With an all-new 3D Maps app, improvements and tweaks across the operating-system, and Siri for iPad, iOS 6 is a major update to Apple’s mobile platform, but is not the overhaul that came with iOS 5.
Apple TV getting apps?
Even prior to the launch of the current Apple TV design, the rumor-mill ran wild with speculation and reports that Apple would open up an App Store and an SDK for the Apple TV. Ahead of WWDC 2012 and the iOS 6 beta, (Apple TV also runs iOS), BGR has claimed that the Apple will announce an Apple TV application SDK at the conference. The same website reported that Apple would unveil the operating system that will run on the mythical Apple television set at WWDC, but not actually reveal the hardware or specific features. Apps on the Apple TV, on top of all of Apple’s other announcements, sounds like a major stretch to us. In fact, we’ve heard nothing pointing to the release of an SDK, so we’d file this as unlikely for now.
Get Organized… with an all-new app from Apple?
iOS 6 will likely feature everything we’ve reported thus far (above: Siri on iPad, a 3D Apple-based Maps application, and features from OS X Mountain Lion), but there has been one possible feature that we’ve been hearing whispers about, but not full, concrete details like we heard for other features. Apple is working on a new in-house application for iOS called “Organize,” but we’re not sure if Organize will be announced with iOS 6 at WWDC, or if it is a future App Store app from Apple, a future iOS enhancement, or something scrapped all together. The application is said to be a virtual pocket, and the app’s purpose is to be able to replicate a person’s pocket and store things such as coupons, travel information, credit card info and more. We speculate that Apple will be using the neat camera-based scanning software that we reported to be in development for the scanning in of business cards, receipts, and using that to provide virtual items that get used when shopping and travelling. We can’t help but think that this application will eventually tie into the rumored Apple wallet/NFC service at some point in the future.
New user tracking tools for iOS app developers?
The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is preparing to announce a new suite of tracking tools for developers to keep tabs on their iOS app usage. The new tools are said to provide developers with critical data needed to create better applications and advertisements, but does instate new levels of security that the former (now non-existant) UDID-based tracking did not offer.
iCloud’s announcement at last year’s WWDC brought a complete overhaul and rebranding of Apple’s former MobileMe suite of services. At WWDC 2012, Apple is expected to unveil some updates to iCloud. As we first reported, Apple will open a new beta version of iCloud for developers that includes a new iCloud website with both Notes and Reminders web-applications. The WSJ followed up by reporting that Apple will build photo-sharing with social elements into the popular Photo Stream feature. In addition, mimicking a report of ours from last year, the WSJ also said that Apple is working on a video synchronization service between iOS devices and Macs, a video version of Photo Stream. We dubbed this “Video Stream” last year.
OS X Mountain Lion:
Apple introduced OS X Mountain Lion in February of this year in order to give the world a sneak peak a OS X’s future and developers a chance to start building applications that are supported by the new OS. The new Mac OS takes several features from iOS, including a Notification Center, Game Center, AirPlay Mirroring, enhanced China support, and more. Apple has never given an official public demonstration of OS X Mountain Lion, so we think that Apple will use time at WWDC to do that. Besides the features that have already been introduced, not much has been rumored. A couple of weeks ago, we located references to Voice Dictation support in Mountain Lion Safari, and there has been some pure speculation about Apple bringing its new iOS Maps app to the Mac with Mountain Lion. Apple has also teased some hardware-specific Mountain Lion features, but we are not sure what to make of that.
With WWDC normally remaining a software only event (and iOS hardware event up until last year), many were surprised when we started reporting that Mac hardware would make an appearance at this year’s WWDC. In early May, we reported that Apple would release its next-generation MacBook Pro at WWDC. This new MacBook Pro will include a thinner design, a high-resolution “Retina Display,” and USB 3.0 connectivity. In terms of the thinner design, it will not be MacBook Air thin or tapered like previously reported by other news sources. Read our full report about the next-generation MacBook Pro here.
Earlier this week, we were first to report that Apple would update most of its Mac line at WWDC. We initially reported that we have re-affirmed that the new Retina Display 15-inch MacBook Pro will appear in this refresh, alongside new 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Airs, and two other Macs. Based on pricing information available to us, we believed that the third Mac was an iMac. After receiving additional price information, we were able to pinpoint that the fourth Mac apart of the 2012 WWDC Mac refresh would be a Mac Pro. This will be the first Mac Pro update in almost two years, making it a notable sight.
Based on this pricing information, we initially expected that the third Mac would be a refresh to the iMac family. This refresh would include updates to all four models (two screen sizes). While the pricing mostly matched an iMac update, we were taken aback as other sources previously inferred that the Retina Display iMac refresh does not sound like something that will be ready in time for a WWDC launch. On the other hand, there were GeekBench benchmarks leaks for an unreleased iMac.
However, it seems like this third Mac could possibly be spec-bumped versions of the current 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro designs along the lines of that leaked spec sticker.
We initially expected that the new Retina Display 15-inch MacBook Pro would replace the 15-inch MacBook Pro of today, making the current design obsolete in the 15 inch form-factor. However, since a legitimate looking label for a 13 inch MacBook Pro with a current design appeared, and since pricing for J30/J31 matches a full iMac family and a current 13/15 inch MacBook Pro family, we think it is possible that Apple will not update the iMac at WWDC, but, instead, the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros.
With all of the above on the new Macs in mind, we have drawn up two possible scenarios for the 2012 WWDC Mac refresh. These scenarios differ based on whether Apple releases a new iMac or spec-bumped 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pros with its current form-factor.
1) New Mac Pro: 2 standard models, 1 server model
2) New MacBook Air: 2 new 11-inch models, 2 new 13-inch models (likely with Retina Displays)
3) Next-Generation 15-inch MacBook Pro: 2 configurations, Retina Display, Thinner Design
4) Spec-bumped MacBook Pros with Current Design: 2 spec-bumped 13-inch models, 2 spec-bumped 15 inch-models (internal tweaks only)
1) New Mac Pro: 2 standard models, 1 server model
2) New MacBook Air: 2 new 11-inch models, 2 new 13-inch models (with Retina Displays)
3) Next-Generation 15-inch MacBook Pro: 2 configurations, Retina Display, Thinner Design
4) New iMacs: 2 21.5 inch configurations, 2 27-inch configurations
As you can see, either way, Apple will release updates to four of its Mac lines, as we first reported. It seems that the Retina Display next-generation 15-inch MacBook Pro, new MacBook Air, and Mac Pro are likely announcements at WWDC, but the fourth new Mac is up for debate. Based on pricing structures, it is very possible that Apple takes either route. However, the current pricing compared to the pricing for this fourth Mac update leans more on scenario 1 happening. That would mean two sets of 15 inch MacBook Pros (current design, and next-gen design + Retina Display). We already reported that the Retina Display 15-inch MacBook Pros would be heavily priced, so keeping current MacBook Pro 15 inch designs at their current price points may seem like the right and agressive move on Apple’s part. Either way, no matter which scenario above that Apple has chosen, WWDC 2012 will be a great week for Apple fans and for those looking to purchase either a new Mac notebook or desktop.
Some odds and ends:
- T-Mobile will be broadcasting iOS device compatible 1900MHz HSPA+ ‘4G’ at Moscone throughout the week, the first time ever publicly.
- iOS 6 banners have been going up as of this writing
- Those Shuffles mentioned above. How will Apple upgrade them? Perhaps Bluetooth which would make them able to stream music and act as a remote control as well.
- We’ll be at the Keynote line the night before WWDC with those getting in first …with some party favors
- We will be on hand this year as always with a liveblog. You won’t want to miss out…
As always, stay tuned to 9to5Mac for the latest in Apple developments and if you are at WWDC this year, hit us up at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to meet up.