WWDC 2013: My prediction roundup

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With the WWDC keynote happening later today (instructions to watch it are here), this is as good a time as any to look at my recent Apple predictions. Fortunately, I wised up and started labeling with “Prediction:” on Twitter, and Twitter lets us download our full history, so my predictions are pretty easy to find. Here are my recent predictions that could come true at WWDC 2013.

Summary

  • Prediction: In less than a year, we’ll will forget Apple Maps was mediocre at launch, and wonder why it took them so long to make their own.
  • Prediction: iOS7 will drop August 2013 (ahead of iPhone 5S), will be a drastic improvement, including a possible overhaul of the entire UI.
  • PREDICTION: Third-party apps are coming to Apple TV in 2013. Multi-media, games, new app categories – this will be a game-changer.

Apple Maps

This was from September 2012, so I still have a few months. That said, Apple Maps has improved quite a bit, but is still not stellar. For my original prediction to come true, I really need iOS 7 (which is now all but confirmed) to include a major update to Maps. On one hand, this seems inevitable, but on the other hand it seems like Apple is throwing maximum resources at a UI redesign, so maybe they don’t currently have resources for the under-the-hood improvements needed to bring Apple Maps up to par with Google’s offering.

iOS 7 overhaul

Also from September 2012, this one is more or less a lock and doesn’t seem like much of a prediction at all, but the context is important here: Last September, iOS 6 was still fresh (released on September 19), Scott Forestall was still at the iOS helm, and there was no sign of a major redesign in the offing. iOS had looked the same since its initial release, five years earlier, and the look and feel seemed to be fully entrenched, with Apple adding more skeuomorphic touches over time.

But then Scott Forestall left in late October, and Jony Ive was given oversight of Human Interface design, sending a strong signal that Apple would redesign iOS this year. This is a substantial change: I don’t recall anyone predicting that Forestall would be out, and Ive would take this type of role. But once it happened, a substantially redesigned iOS 7 was virtually inevitable.

Third-party apps for Apple TV

Fast-forward to 2013, and I’m predicting Apple TV will support third-party apps this year. To be fair, I’ve basically made this same prediction every year since 2009 (implicitly in 2009, took 2010 off, 2011, 2012, 2013), so this isn’t an unusual prediction for me to make. But Tim Cook teased “exciting new product categories” on the previous Apple quarterly earnings call, so maybe this is finally happening. Seems like the most likely new categories are TV and wearable tech.

The thing I’m most excited about is the iOS 7 update. I can’t wait to see an iOS 7 demo.

Some stuff I got wrong last year

In the interest of full disclosure, these are two predictions I made that ended up being way off base. Those came and went a while ago, but they signal a pretty big shift in Apple’s release strategy. That change makes it tough for me to feel good about hardware releases, which is why I don’t have any hardware-related predictions for WWDC 2013. I don’t understand what Apple is doing with hardware release cycles, so I don’t feel good about making those predictions right now.

That said, I had a sneaking suspicion that I was going to be super wrong (this is one of several “I could be very wrong” tweets I sent leading up to the iPad mini announcement last fall):

Sometimes you eat the bear…

My expectations for Apple’s keynote at WWDC 2012

Last year, I wrote about WWDC 2011 ex post. But that’s pretty easy, right? Just follow the keynote and share my opinion on what was said. This year, I thought I’d try a little ex ante prognostication. Of course, there’s some risk that I’ll be wrong, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take. Plus, if anyone calls me out for missing my 2012 WWDC predictions, I can just point them to my piece from 2009 to regain some credibility 1. Speaking of that 2009 piece (and its “New Apple TV” prediction), let’s get to my expectations for WWDC 2012.

Apple TV software update

I may have had the wrong timeline when I predicted the “New Apple TV” (an Apple-branded TV), but I’m still clinging to that prediction. A big, big step in that direction will be opening up the Apple TV platform to third-party apps. I think one of the first apps will be HBO Go. Or at least I hope that’s one of the first ones. And this obviously has significant implications for the gaming industry, right?

Scoured from GameNGuide via Google Images

iOS 6

This is more or less a slam dunk unless Apple is hanging iOS 6 banners around WWDC as a really elaborate red herring. What will we see in iOS 6? I really don’t know, actually. Facebook integration seems to be heavily rumored. It seems like Siri is due for an update, and possibly a port to iPad.

Although I don’t think this is very likely, it’s time for a refresh of the OS itself. Maybe not a complete overhaul, but a pretty serious update to the UI. iOS is five years old now, and it’s starting to feel familiar. I think it’s still the best mobile OS (really, it’s one of the best OSes of any kind), but familiarity often breeds contempt, and it might be time to give the people something fresh.

But to be honest, I don’t expect huge changes in iOS 6. Better iCloud integration, Facebook integration, and small tweaks like that would fit Apple’s pattern of minor software updates in the years when there will be major hardware updates. This is the same pattern I wrote about last year2 when I said the iPhone 4S was still good enough, but that I expected Apple to really beef up iOS with iOS 5. This is a hardware year for iOS devices, so I don’t expect iOS to see a huge update.

I think we will see a huge update to Maps. This has been rumored for a while, and it looks like Google is taking proactive steps to differentiate their Maps product ahead of WWDC. I expect Apple to announce a totally in-house Apple Maps app, and I hope it offers turn-by-turn navigation (finally).

OS X Mountain Lion

We’ll finally get a really good look at what’s next for OS X. I expect to see a lot more iOS-like features showing up in OS X as the platforms continue to merge over the years. In 2010, Apple had an event called “Back to Mac“, signaling that their various platforms were going to become more coherent. That process is a difficult one, and it’s still very much happening. I expect to see iOS-like notifications, app integration (e.g., Twitter and Facebook integration in the OS itself), better iCloud integration, a heavier focus on the Mac App Store, and I’m sure there will be some general Ux improvements.

Speaking of iCloud

It’s time for iCloud to fly. Apple’s been pushing it for a while, but they still haven’t totally sunsetted MobileMe 3. I expect a lot more iCloud integration across Apple’s family of products. One of Apple’s biggest competitive advantages is the Apple ecosystem (“walled garden”), but it’s still not a totally wireless ecosystem.

Crazy prediction: Apple has a lot of new space in their data center. How about iCloud backup for OS X? I think it’s time we start seeing our data aggregated and refactored so we don’t have copies of all the same stuff everywhere.

What about the iPhone 5?

Not yet. I think iPhone 5 will be huge, but it won’t be out until September. It’s not typically Apple’s style to announce new iPhone hardware at WWDC, and I don’t think they’ll break from that this year. They have a lot of other cool stuff to talk about.

MacBooks

This is the thing I’m most looking forward to. I’m currently using a late-2008 15″ MacBook Pro, and I’m ready for some new duds. Don’t get me wrong, I love my MBP, but I want something new. It seems likely that Apple will discontinue the 17″ MBP, and roll out new, thinner MBPs all around. I’m not sure if all MBPs will become “MacBook Air-like” or if the MBP will just get much thinner, but I do expect a much thinner MBP to be announced.

It also seems like it’s time for “Retina” to come to MacBooks. The pixel-density doesn’t even need to be as good as iPad’s Retina display for it to work, so the technology is out there.

Now, we wait to see if I’m even remotely right. I might come back and do a recap of WWDC 2012 and how it aligns with my expectations, but that’s unlikely as I’m trying to get some big updates to ShareAppeal out the door.

Do I need to disclose that I own Apple stock? Or that I’m a serious Apple Fanboy? You already know that, right? Good.

Why I’m ok with Apple’s WWDC 2011 Keynote

The annual WWDC Keynote is a pretty big deal for Apple fanboys like me. Apple typically makes several big announcements throughout the year, but this is usually the big announcement. (Maybe I’m biased because iPhone and iOS are my favorite Apple products.) It’s typically pretty easy to anticipate what’s coming, but this year’s keynote seemed different. No one really seemed to know what to expect. What we got was iOS 5, iCloud and Lion, but no new hardware. In case you missed it, here are some links to help you catch up:

  • Here is the Keynote in 120 seconds
  • Here is a brief roundup from MacStories.net
  • If you want to read more in-depth about each part of the announcement, 9to5mac.com did a good job of covering each segment of the keynote. If you search for “WWDC 2011:“, and scroll through, you’ll see a series of posts starting with “WWDC 2011: …” that hit the highlights.

No iPhone?! AH! … Wait. Nevermind, it’s cool.

The conspicuous omission this year was a new iPhone. It looks like we’ll be waiting until September this year, and that’s about two months longer than most people want to wait. A lot of people are pretty frustrated with this. I’m not because, as a single device, the iPhone 4 is still the best smartphone there is. As a single package, its Retina display, look and feel, specs and its functionality, can outshine any other smartphone on the market right now. Android fanboys and Apple haters will disagree, but the bottom line is Apple is still selling a ton of iPhone 4s because people love it.

That said, a lack of iPhone announcement at WWDC isn’t a definitive statement that there won’t be a new iPhone soon. WWDC is a developer’s conference, after all – they’re focused primarily on software and then on hardware.

iCloud is pretty cool, if a little late

The only hardware tweak I’d really like for iPhone is more storage, but Apple is addressing that indirectly by introducing iCloud. I want more storage because I have more music than my phone can hold. Of course, there’s no way I can listen to 32GB of music at once, but I’d rather not have to decide what to sync and what to leave behind. It’s also a little annoying to have to try to keep free space for videos, new podcasts and voice memos. But once iCloud is up and running, I won’t really have to worry about that anymore. I can use iCloud plus iTunes Match for most of my music, leaving the rest of my iPhone 4’s storage free for the other stuff.

Major OS updates on the way with iOS 5

So the iPhone hardware is not really what needs the boost. But the software could use some modernization and that’s where Apple is focusing. They’ve built such a big lead in the smartphone hardware war that they can afford to skip (or at least delay) a hardware refresh cycle to focus on major software improvements. And major software improvements are on the way in iOS 5. They’re revamping notifications, adding Over The Air (OTA) software updates, multi-device syncing via the cloud, deeply integrating Twitter and making other improvements that will make iOS 5 one of the best (possibly the best) mobile operating systems out there.

My iPhone has been Jailbroken for about eight months now. Here are the major reasons I’m jailbroken in order of importance to me:

  • Free tethering – I rarely need to tether, but I’m occasionally stuck without internet or just can’t find WiFi. I’m already paying for unlimited data. I’m just not going to pay AT&T an additional monthly fee to use the data I’m already paying for (especially since I use very little data as I’m almost always on WiFI). MyWi cost me $20 one time and has been a nice fallback when all else fails.
  • Better texting – I don’t like having to tap like 10 times to go from viewing an incoming message notification to actually replying to the text. BiteSMS and some other apps make this much better.
  • Far better notifications – There’s really no other way to say it: iOS notifications are awful. They were ok a few years ago, but they’re way behind the times now. MobileNotifier drastically improves notifications on iOS.

iOS 5 addresses most of these. Tethering has already been addressed by Apple in iOS 4, and my main issue with this is that AT&T wants to continue charging a premium for the service (so this isn’t on Apple). Notifications are being specifically addressed in iOS 5 (Apple even hired Peter Hajas, who designed MobileNotifier), and they’re sort of addressing texting with the notifications updates. So most of my major frustrations with iOS are either being addressed by Apple in iOS 5 or are out of Apple’s control (tethering).

So, all in all, I was pretty happy with what we got at WWDC 2011. And I admit I’m still crossing my fingers for a new iPhone in September.