We’re just a few days away from Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, better known as WWDC. Each year, Apple packs developers (and the press) into a crowded theater to show off its vision of how its ecosystem will evolve over the next 12 months.
Unlike what Facebook, Microsoft and Google have done recently, Apple rarely takes the time to showcase its long-term vision of the future. Don’t expect to see Apple’s 10-year plan. And any hints at an Apple Car? Forget about it.
Instead, WWDC is about offering developers a glimpse at the tools they can use to build better, more exciting apps for all of Apple’s various platforms and services. And sometimes, it’s a chance for Drake to come out on stage in an Apple jacket.
Siri will evolve
The big rumors ahead of WWDC point to Siri getting a major overhaul. And it’s time.
Apple bought Siri back in 2010 and relaunched it as part of iOS 5 alongside the iPhone 4S. The early days of Siri were rough, but over the last five years, the personal assistant has actually become quite good.
And Siri is in more places too, including the Apple Watch and the Apple TV.
Siri is good now. But of course, the competition isn’t sitting still. Amazon’s Alexa assistant is on a tear lately, not just with the Amazon Echo, but with a wide array of third-party integrations, too.
The virtual assistant game is becoming very competitive and Siri needs to evolve to keep up.
And that’s before we even talk about Google Assistant and the upcoming Google Home speaker. Google Assistant in particular looks promising because it will allow users to ask questions back to back, without rephrasing what you need all over again.
In short, the virtual-assistant game is becoming very competitive, and Siri needs to evolve to keep up.
Apple is expected to announce a Siri SDK, which will allow Siri to be used by third-party apps. Ironically, this was something the original Siri team had planned for the assistant, back when it was an iPhone app circa 2010.
Having third-party support for Siri could be huge, especially if those apps can also offer some of their own data sources and functions for Siri to access.
Siri is also expected to come to the Mac via the next version of OS X (or macOS/MacOS or whatever Apple decides to call it).
We’ve been hearing rumors about Siri on the Mac for quite some time, but MacRumors posted a photo of a Siri dock icon from a leaked version of OS X, that looks very promising.
Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant, is already part of Windows 10, so Apple isn’t breaking any new ground here – but having Siri on the Mac should hopefully make the service more useful.
And though it’s a long shot, there’s always a chance Apple could release its own Siri speaker – something The Information reported that Apple is working on. If only Apple owned a company that made bluetooth speakers.
New versions of iOS, OS X (macOS), tvOS and watch OS
Apple has spent much of the last 16 months releasing new hardware. Last April it released the Apple Watch. In the fall, we got the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, the new Apple TV and the 12.9-inch iPad Pro. This spring, we got the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, the smaller iPhone SE and an updated MacBook.
A year after the release of watchOS 2, Apple Watch developer interest has seemed to stagnate.
Which is to say I expect most of focus on this WWDC to be on software. In 2016, Apple’s ecosystem is mature and it will likely become even more unified at WWDC.
Apple will be releasing the next major version of iOS, which we assume will be called iOS 10.
Last year, iOS 9 added a lot of new tools for developers, as well as Apple News, Apple Music and a much improved Apple Maps.
Right now, there aren’t any rumors about new default apps coming to iOS 10, but we expect to see improvements to the existing apps. And of course, Siri is expected to get a major overhaul (see below)
But iOS is the foundation for two other operating systems, watchOS and tvOS. The Apple TV’s tvOS launched in the fall and although there have been some terrific Apple TV apps, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
The Apple Watch, which is now more than a year old, has evolved too. At WWDC last year, Apple officially unveiled watchOS 2.0, which offered developers a way to build fully native apps.
But a year later, Apple Watch developer interest has seemed to stagnate. We’re not expecting new Apple Watch hardware, so what incentives Apple can offer developers to re-invigorate interest, will be worth watching.
And we can’t forget about the Mac. Word on the street is that Apple will be renaming OS X to MacOS (or maybe, macOS). The rumors come from the way Apple has referred to the operating system in some of its documents and beta releases.
Longtime Mac fans may recall that before Mac OS X (as it was then known) was released in 2001, Apple’s operating system was in fact, called Mac OS.
Renaming the operating system doesn’t really affect much other than branding, but it would stop people from incorrectly pronouncing OS X (it’s pronounced “ten” not “ex”).
Revamped Apple Music
Apple Music was a huge part of WWDC last year. I mean, Drake got on stage in a vintage Apple jacket.
And Apple Music is off to a good start, with more than 13 million subscribers. As I’ve written before, I like the service, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have problems.
Apple is expected to release a more streamlined version of Apple Music with a less confusing interface. There have also been reports that Apple Music will get integrated lyrics support.
Beats 1 is expected to continue to stick around, and it might even expand to more stations. As for Connect (the social network), if it still exists, expect it to be significantly downgraded.
Of course, iTunes is in desparate need of an update. Frankly, iTunes needs to get an Apple Photos-style revamp, but that’s not expected until next year. Still, minor changes to iTunes are expected to help reflect the changes coming to Apple Music.
We probably won’t see new hardware
We were hoping for Skylake MacBook Pro notebooks — or better yet, a fully redesigned MacBook Pro. There are even leaks that Apple is developing a new MacBook Pro, but unfortunately, that’s not expected until the fall.