Sterne Agee Expects Software to Outweigh Hardware at WWDC

AppleMost of the pre-World Wide Dvelopers Conference (WWDC) attention has been focused on new hardware offerings from Apple, but Sterne Agee analyst Shaw Wu believes that software developments could be more important. He specifically cited a new Apple mapping service and photosharing features that have been rumored to be on the way.

“While a lot of anticipation and focus has been on potential new hardware announcements including new Macs,” the analyst told clients in a research note obtained by The Mac Observer, “we believe the bigger news could be around new iOS and OS X software features including enhanced Maps and photosharing.”

Mr. Wu said this his own industry sources say that Apple will be unveiling a “significant upgrade” to its Maps app. Apple currently uses Google Maps to power Maps, but the company went on a Map buying spree in recent years and is expected to be ready to unveil a new proprietary service to power Maps.

“From our understanding, it is internally developed and will be radically different and better than existing Maps from others,” Mr. Wu told clients. “While a lot of focus will likely be on how this replaces Google Maps that currently powers every iOS device shipped, we hear the key reason why AAPL decided to do this is that it believes it can deliver a much better user experience in Maps, not to mention provide further differentiation for its mobile devices business.”

The analyst was less specific on photo sharing features that Apple will unveil, but said that he believes Apple will be unveiling more powerful ways for users to do this popular activity.

As for hardware, the analyst said he anticipates “several” new Mac refreshes, listing all of the company’s Mac models as possible candidates, with an emphasis on iMac, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air. This is in keeping with rumors coming out of Apple’s supply chain.

Upgrades will include new Intel processors and Retina Displays, according to the analyst.

Mr. Wu maintained his “Buy” rating on the stock and a price target of US$780.

Shares of AAPL moved lower on Friday, a move precipitated by poor jobs numbers in the U.S. economy. That lead to a broad retreat across most sectors.

AAPL ended the week at $560.99, down $16.74 (-2.90%), on moderate volume of 18.6 million shares trading hands.

*In the interest of full disclosure, the author holds a tiny, almost insignificant share in AAPL stock that was not an influence in the creation of this article.