iOS 8, Mac OS X, Beats: What To Expect At Apple’s WWDC 2014

Apple is almost ready to announce the structural underpinnings of every product that it will release this year at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. For developers, everything you need to know to build iOS apps for the iPad and iPhone, the additions and design of Apple’s Mac OS X and the iCloud glue that holds it all together will be announced at the WWDC 2014 keynote on June 2nd. 

If we are lucky, we may even see what Apple plans for the future of music, the smart home and the smart car, health and fitness at WWDC as well.

As usual, Apple is keeping its cards close to its vest. But Apple senior vice president Eddie Cue said at the Code Conference this week that the company has, “best product pipeline that I’ve seen in my 25 years at Apple” coming in 2014. While it is unlikely that we will see any of those products announced next week, WWDC is the place where Apple starts to lay the foundation for its entire annual product portfolio.

What exactly are we going to hear from Apple at WWDC? The prognosis is cloudy, but there have been enough leaks over the past few weeks to give us a good sense of what is in the offing. 

Apple will probably stick pretty close to its usual script. Look for a well-designed video that is supposed to be the very essence of Apple-ness, followed by a keynote from CEO Tim Cook touting growth numbers and features. (If you’re not going to be there yourself, here’s how you can watch it live.) Following Cook, Apple will likely roll out its usual cast of characters, including senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi and his wonderful coif, senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller (who will inevitably throw darts at Google and Microsoft) and senior vice president of Internet software and services Cue.

Though some speculate—or just hope—that Apple will announce an iWatch at the event, it’s likely that the company will hold most hardware announcements, including an expected new Apple TV and the iPhone 6, until later this year. 

iOS 8: Maps, Healthbook & iTunes

WWDC is the time of year when Apple announces the latest version of iOS before giving developers the summer to build apps before the release of the new iPhone in the fall. This year Apple likely has iOS 8 on tap, featuring new health features, perhaps more iBeacon support and smart home functionality.

See also: 6 Things Apple Should Fix In iOS 8

In 2013, iOS 7 was the mobile developer story of the year. The new design and features (and variety of bugs) made it the hot topic through the summer months. iOS 8 likely won’t be as drastic a change as iOS 7. As ReadWrite predicted earlier this year, Apple may release an updated version of its Maps app, after struggling for the last two versions. iTunes is expected to see some minor changes as well, including Shazam-style song recognition features. Apple may also break iTunes Radio out into a separate app, though Apple’s plans on music are unclear after the acquisition of Beats.

The biggest change to iOS 8 might be the addition of Healthbook, a health and fitness tracking feature, that 9to5 Mac revealed in March. The application will reportedly track your activity, weight, sleep patterns, heart rate, and blood pressure, similar to other mobile health apps, but combined into one Apple-powered product. 

In addition to the big additions like Healthbook, Maps and iTunes, expect some tweaks and improvements to iMessage, Game Center and the Text Edit app. Rumors suggest that Apple may also bring Voice over LTE to iOS 8, but that is a capability that is more directly handled by the cellular carriers, not manufacturers like Apple.

If Apple is planning any wearable technology for WWDC, the rumor mill has not yet churned it out. An iWatch, if Apple ever makes one, will be distinctly tied to the iPhone and iOS. It is possible that Apple could drop some hints of its wearable future with certain aspects of iOS 8 features to be announced during the keynote.

On the iPhone front, supply chain analysts predicted that Apple would announce a cheaper version of the iPhone 5S with 8 GB of storage at WWDC, but longtime Apple beat writer Jim Dalrymple debunks that rumor with a simple “nope.”

OS X: Syrah And A Redesign

The biggest news from WWDC may not be iOS 8, but rather a new look of Mac OS X for iMac and MacBooks. Mac OS X 10.10 beta, codenamed “Syrah” will reportedly get a complete redesign, similar to the changes iOS 7 brought to iDevices last year.

WWDC has also become Apple’s preferred venue to announce new PC hardware. Last year Apple announced the Mac Pro along with a variety of new MacBooks that were released later in the year. Rumors on possible new Apple computer hardware are hard to pin down this year, though these products are usually a side note to the big news from iOS 8 and Mac OS X at WWDC.

A Potential iHome

Smart home technologies powered by an iDevice could be available soon. According to the Financial Times, the company will unveil technologies that control connected devices like thermostats, lights, and door locks at the event next week. Think about the iPhone as the universal remote for your home (backed by iCloud) and you get the idea. 

See Also: Report: Apple Wants To Make The iPhone The Hub For Your Smart Home

The connected home is no longer a dream of the future, but a reality many people, not just technologists, are embracing. (Smart homes can even capture life-saving cats on camera.) 

As more people want to smarten up their homes, Apple wants to make it easy for smart home hardware manufacturers to connect with iDevices, so, for instance, an iPhone owner can automatically lock her doors and windows as soon as she leaves the house, or have her favorite music follow her from the living room to the bedroom. 

Apple may also may improve its Apple TV product at WWDC, but the company’s video streaming box never really gets a lot of attention at events like WWDC or during announcements of new iPhones or iPads.

Beats Joining Apple

The acquisition of Beats by Apple is official. New Apple employee and Beats co-founder Jimmy Iovine may or may not make an appearance on stage at WWDC but may not considering that he is not technically an Apple employee until the deal becomes official. Dr. Dre may or may not make an appearance as well. 

Expect Cook and company to mention the Beats acquisition several times during the keynote, but given the developer-centric slant of WWDC, it is hard to see any relevant music features coming out of the Beats department so soon after the acquisition was confirmed.

iCloud

Though the majority of the WWDC sessions are still under wraps, the Sessions page hints that developers will have the opportunity to learn more about how to build iCloud services into their apps. 

Apple is not likely to unleash iCloud on the developer world in the same way that Amazon has done with Amazon Web Services or Microsoft has with its Azure cloud stack. But if developers are building specifically for iOS or Mac OS X, iCloud will increasingly be central to interoperability between apps and services. For instance, more robust iCloud storage will come to Apple’s iWork suite while Game Center relies on iCloud to serve a variety of features. iCloud will continue to blur the lines between Max OS X and iOS, and WWDC is the perfect place to announce new features to Apple’s cloud service.

We’ll be live-tweeting the event on our Twitter account @RWW, and will be posting regular news announcements and analysis from WWDC throughout the week, so stay tuned! 

Lead image via Daniel Spiess on Flickr

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