Photo via t-gaap.com.
Apple's big, annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) kicks off Monday in San Francisco. Expect a variety of announcements covering the Mac, iPhone and iPad. Here's what's actually worth paying attention to.
1. iOS 6
iOS is Apple's most important platform: The iPhone, iPad and iPod touch represent the majority of Apple's sales, profits and growth. Whatever Apple announces at WWDC will have a big effect on iOS users and developers over the next year.
Perhaps you've read by now that Apple will supposedly launch its own Maps service for iOS this year. Until now, the company has relied on Google for Maps. But as Apple and Google increasingly compete, it makes sense for Apple to own as many of its core features as possible.
The biggest question I have is whether Apple's maps will actually be better than Google's maps. Google has many years of experience in maps and has incredibly useful features, like Street View and public transit directions in many cities. If Apple can surpass Google in maps, that would be a coup. If Apple's new maps aren't as good, it could be a sour point.
Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted last month that Apple and Facebook would be working more closely, and it appears Apple will be baking some Facebook features into iOS the same way it did last year with Twitter.
Any new features themselves aren't as important as the news that Apple and Facebook - two of the most important companies in the tech world - are able to work together on something after previous challenges.
3. New Macs and OS X Mountain Lion
The Mac doesn't get the attention it used to, as it is now a relatively small chunk of Apple's business. But it's still a very important product line for Apple: It's growing, it's profitable, it's huge for iOS developers and it's worth defending. Expect a good look at the new OS X Mountain Lion software and probably some new high-end Macs. Perhaps a 15-inch MacBook Air-type Pro laptop? Or a new Mac Pro tower?
iCloud is the glue for all-things-Apple and one of its most important products. Pay close attention to whatever Apple says about iCloud, because it really matters.
5. TV Stuff
One theory is that Apple may unveil some sort of App Store-like platform for the Apple TV console at WWDC. I don't expect any sort of full-fledged Apple HD television announcement yet - that seems premature - but look for cues about Apple's plans for the living room. There's too much smoke here not to have fire.
Apple hasn't killed its iAd business yet, and Tim Cook's comments at the D conference last month seem to suggest it's going to keep investing in it. This could be an opportunity to update developers on the iAd platform and even announce new features, if there are any. I'll be looking for clues on how iAd might also fit into the new Apple Maps product and Apple TV: Television is, after all, still the biggest chunk of the ad market.
7. Apple After Steve
Last year's WWDC was Steve Jobs' last big keynote, and now, a year later, the company is doing better than ever. I'll be looking for subtle differences in how Apple's leaders are conducting themselves, how they're presenting products, and any different design decisions they're making now. Apple doesn't seem to have changed much over the past year, but it would be foolish to suggest it hasn't changed at all.
Oh, and one more thing: Don't expect Apple to announce a new iPhone on Monday. That's probably something that will happen later this year, around September or October. As always, a surprise is possible, but it would be a real surprise.