For the first time since 2014, WWDC is Apple’s first keynote of the year, which naturally means that there is a lot of pent up excitement and expectation surrounding the event. WWDC has always been the most significant event for developers, but what should we expect to see this year…
AI and in particular ambient computing devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home are becoming ever more present in the last couple of years, and although Apple launched Siri way back in 2011 it finds itself playing catch up. AI is set to be a major theme for WWDC this year, as Apple continues to make improvements while maintining a major focus on privacy and internationalisation.
Apple’s integration with smart home devices centres around HomeKit, which means that providers have to go through a rigours certification process and include a proprietary chip in their devices. I don’t expect many changes to HomeKit this year, but a possibility an update of its adoption during the keynote.
I would expect Apple to open up some of its on device data analysis APIs to third party developers, and these API will be optimised for any AI co-processors that will be added to upcoming devices.
The biggest thing holding Siri back is the available domains that it supports, so seeing these expand this year is a no brainer. The most obvious domains are music controls and to dos.
Siri Ambient Device
Does it exist? Does it have a screen? Nobody outside of Cupertino knows, but if it does, one thing is for sure, that it will revolve around Siri. Apple have pre announced a devices months before its release before (AppleTV, iPhone and Apple Watch to name but a few) but Apple could get away with just announcing the new enhanced Siri capabilities in its other SDKs at WWDC, and leaving the big unveil of the hardware for the holidays.
Unlike other Siri hardware, an ambient device shouldn’t be tied to a single user, so support for detecting individual users by their voice would be an important feature of this device.
A major focus of the Siri hardware will be music, in particular sound quality and its integration with Apple Music.
iOS, as has been the case since iOS 5 will be the headline update at WWDC. While nobody is expecting a major overhaul to the UI like in iOS 7, the UI will continue to roll back the extreme aspects of flat UI introduced in iOS 7, such as getting filled buttons, thicker fonts etc
iOS 11 is will have major improvements for the iPad, including an overhaul of the multitasking interface, and the ability to drag and drop files between apps.
Dark mode is an obvious feature, and is already available in macOS and tvOS. Integration at the OS level means that it can be activated automatically in conjunction with night shift.
Improving AI and therefore Siri on macOS will be a major area of focus this year, which will hopefully include merging Spotlight and Siri together. SiriKit came to iOS in 10.0 last year and watchOS 3.2 earlier this year, so this update of macOS should see it make its way across to the Mac.
Developers can hope (as we do every year) that UIKit, or at least a UIKit replacement/wrapper for AppKit is unveiled at WWDC. The ability to share more than the model layer code between all of Apple’s platforms would probably see the biggest cheer of all at the keynote.
iOS 10.3 saw millions of iPhones successfully migrate their file systems from HFS+ to APFS, so I would expect to see this release of macOS to do the same.
watchOS 3 was a major update, focusing on fitness and simplifying the most common real world workflows on the Apple Watch. watchOS 4 is set to add more refinements and niceties akin to unlocking your Mac, with any major features requiring new hardware such as a cell radio or glucose monitor.
The Apple TV hasn’t as of yet set the world on fire, but rumours are rife that we will finally get an Amazon Prime app for tvOS. I expect tvOS to get an update, but nothing major as the single thing holding back the platform is the lack off content.
The “iPad” received an update in March, but both of the iPad Pro models are due for an update, with the 12.9 and 9.7 inch versions been released in November 2015 and March 2016 respectively. The iPad Pro line up will game feature parity and include a True Tone display in both models, it would be nice to see them both gain 3D Touch alongside their existing Apple Pencil support.
The iPad Pro 9.7 inch will be replaced with a 10.5 inch, thin bezelled screen, at the same resolution (but a higher pixel resolution) as 12.9 inch model, akin to the iPad and iPad mini.
In regards to the iPad mini, its days are numbered with iPad’s price drop and popularity of the Plus size phones.
The MacBook was released in the first half of 2015 and updated at the same time last year, so an update to the MacBook is due but just a spec bump isn’t really keynote worthy.
There are also rumours of a update to the MacBook Pro, which already saw a significant overhaul in October, so this will only be a minor spec bump.
The iMac is a bit long in the tooth, last being updated in October 2015 but it is already fast so I wouldn’t expect to see it unless we get the iMac Pro.
Although it only gets some words on a slide during the main Keynote, saving the rest for the state of the union presentation later in the day, the developer tools will obviously get an update at WWDC. Last year Apple finally fixed automatic code signing (for all but the most complex of cases), so next on the list has to be improvements regarding Swift, such as the refactoring tools.
Swift is now being developed out in the open, so I wouldn’t expect to see any major announcements on that front.