Apple’s annual worldwide developer conference isn’t just a technical conference for developers, rather, it’s a framework for Apple’s future ecosystem.
It’s a popular thing every year to either predict what Apple will reveal at WWDC or else create a wishlist. Both are fun and help us build a community conversation about what we want from Apple.
However, this year is an especially important year, and I’d like to, in in a slightly different fashion, focus on why it’s such an important event in 2017.
Hardware. As Apple customers, we’re hungry for new hardware. But then, Apple isn’t in the general habit of announcing new hardware at WWDC. Instead Apple focuses on the technologies that will make its developers successful as business men and women. And so, I propose that Apple will likely present some new hardware, but not everything we might hope for.
The thing to watch for is which hardware. That will tell us what Apple thinks is most crucial to its ecosystem. On that basis, because the new Mac Pro aren’t due until at least 2018 and it’s a bit too early to update the 2016 MacBook Pro, don’t be disappointed if the Mac, despite Apple’s recent affirmations, is not played up. The same goes for the iPhone. That’s a September event.
Apple’s most urget front line is probably the Siri Speaker because it’s Apple’s inroad to AI shopping and the smart home. There are also opportunities with better music sound. See: “Apple’s Rumored Siri Speaker Targets Sonos, Too.”
Software. Basically, WWDC is all about giving developers the tools they need to exploit Apple’s hardware. This year is particularly interesting because Apple would probably like to make some major strides with iOS 11. This is especially true with the iPad because just about everyone agrees that the iPad hardware needs a serious boost and a brilliant iOS 11 partner to exploit it.
If so, it’ll be a delicate balance between Apple’s urgency for developers to implement new technologies and the patience of major developers to revise their apps. That always entails serious advances in Xcode and a stronger emphasis on Swift.
Returning to the Mac, one of the interesting advances will be APFS, Apple’s new file sytem that replaces HFS+. Apple cleverly introduced APFS in iOS 10.3. so that it would have hundreds of millions of customers using it as a testbed, in a rather limited way, before rolling it out for the Mac. That gives Apple a huge knowledge base in preparation for a likely rollout in macOS 10.13.
In concert with that, if it happens, look for a roll out a Time Machine replacement.
Another thing to look for is whether Apple brings the security and encryption mechanism to all new Macs as it has done with iOS. When that arrives, you’ll be able to do a master system reset and confidently sell an SSD-based Mac without laborious erase operations—just like your iPhone today.
Apple has had tough sledding with HomeKit in terms of broad adoption and the “sell” on security. The Siri Speaker could be the Thing that finally gets home automation to the desired comfort level for the average customer, not just the bleeding edge users.
Apple has a lot on its plate this year. New products have been scarce. The company has been criticized for not attending to the Mac, for not reversing the decline in iPad sales, for not making enough headway with home automation. It has been praised for its efforts with health and fitness monitoring, and it will be tempting for Apple to spill the beans on its blood glucose monitoring work. That alone would propel the Apple Watch into hyperdrive.
All in all, this 2017 WWDC keynote will create a state-of-mind in the customer and observer communities as to whether Apple is addressing the company’s most urgent needs in a plainly understandable way. It shouldn’t require weeks of analysis and post-WWDC, clarifying interviews with Apple executives to make the keynote case that Apple is on track with new products that customers will love and developers will love to develop for.