Bluetooth Could Be Big At WWDC

Everyone's trying to guess what Apple has in store for us at WWDC. While rumors abound there are a few solid facts about what will be presented that should interest every owner or potential owner of Apple products.

It's a fairly short list, but boy does it cover a lot of territory:

Snow Leopard

The latest iteration of Apple's UNIX-based OS is primarily focused on squeezing the best possible performance out of your Mac. So there won't be a truckload of new features. In fact, I'd suspect that some features will be missing, the most obvious of which may be the lack of support for PowerPC based Macs. In order to reduce size and complexity Apple will root out anything to do with the PowerPC chipset thus making Snow Leopard soar where Leopard merely took off.

Another interesting thing is that while Microsoft pretty much screwed the pooch on Vista they seem hellbent on redeeming themselves with Windows 7. They've been offering up free betas to anyone willing to take a look, and the response has been quite good. The rank and file Windows users are still stuck on XP, but they are eying Windows 7 as a possible replacement, looking pass Vista altogether. These folks are also potential switchers, if Windows 7 does not measure up then Microsoft may experience a platform defection that would make the current rate of defection to OS X and Macs seems like a trickle compared to a flood.

Already the two OSes are being compared feature for feature so Apple really can't miss a step with Snow Leopard.

iPhone OS version 3

Actually, this may be the 800 pound gorilla at WWDC because there are so many features promised in this OS release that iPhone and iPod touch owners have wanted and waited patiently for since buying their devices. This OS and the features it offers are also critical for Apple because competitors now or will soon offer devices that have largely caught to, and in some instances surpassed the iPhone and iPod touch in features and in user interface -- an area Apple still dominates, but may not for very long.

For instance Palm's new Pre is being billed as the iPhone's first real competitor and Microsoft, of all companies, has developed the Zune into a real iPod touch challenger. Both devices offer features that are missing on current Apple devices, but iPhone OS 3.0 could, really should, change all of that.

I said it was a short list, but it is easy to see that even if none of the rumors of new hardware materializes, WWDC will still be a major event.

One of the features in iPhone OS version 3.0 that I am particularly interested in is the Bluetooth upgrade. The current iPhone OS only offers support for monaural Bluetooth headphones. Version 3.0 will open up Bluetooth on the iPhone allowing the use of wireless stereo headsets for sure and possibly other Bluetooth devices such as keyboards and controllers.

Just this one feature, coupled with the mad-crazy number of games now available for the iPhone would make the iPhone and iPod touch solid gaming devices and keep the competition at bay for a while.

Imagine firing up a first-person shooter on your iPhone: You've just downloaded the iPhone version of Halo and it kicks so much rump that you are ready to forgive Bungee for defecting to the Dark Side. (I know, they got bought by Big Redmond, but they coulda fought it. They coulda!!)

You are dying to show your friends the kick-action that's possible on no other phone so you dock your iPhone to his entertainment system and fire it up. You wirelessly blast everything in sight using ZeeMote's wee JS1 Bluetooth controller.

Maybe there's a very important email you want to send and you've just come up with the right words to express your innermost feelings, thus securing that long sought after date. While tapping out your thoughts using the virtual keyboard could work, on-screen keys just won't cut it when you've got some serious writing to do and a Bluetooth keyboard would be just the ticket.

While the iPhone has been a game changer for the mobile communication industry there are things that most people will agree should have been present from the start. Landscape text entry in all apps that can use it, multimedia messaging, and 3G tethering, even the infamous cut-n-paste are features nearly every smart phone offered even before the iPhone arrived.

Broad Bluetooth support, however, was something even dumb phones offered right out of the box. Heck, a give-away phone from AT&T lets you sync stereo Bluetooth headsets, so I can't think of a good reason why it wasn't included on the iPhone from the start.

Now, at WWDC, Apple can finally fill in all of the iPhone holes and make the device what it should have been all along.

I, for one, can't wait.

As for the rumors of hardware to be announced at WWDC, well, I believe the iPhone and iPod touch will get modest hardware enhancements; more memory (32 GB for the iPhone, 64GB for the iPod touch), faster processors, and a better camera for the iPhone. I wouldn't be surprised to find a camera on the iPod touch as well as GPS.

I don't think we'll see a tablet device, though I'd sell blood and part of my liver to buy one if Apple offered it.

There will likely be speed increases across the entire Mac lineup. I believe this because Apple quietly upgraded the white MacBook, giving it slightly better specs the its aluminum siblings. We can't have that, now can we?

I'll go out on a small limb and predict that Apple may perform major magic on its Mac Pro series, which are the slowest selling of all Macs. Apple will likely shift the entry point to a far lower price point and rely on customization to sell the costlier products. Imagine an $1,800 Mac Pro running lower tier Intel processors, but sporting the Pro's bus speeds and scalability. It could happen.

Still, for my money the biggest news at WWDC will be about Bluetooth on the iPhone. I guess we'll see next week.