"Never make predictions, especially about the future."
-- Casey Stengel
My approach to predictions for WWDC is not to look at what cool hardware might be released. That's merely fantasizing about what we want. Instead, I think about what Apple's current agenda is. With that in mind, it's not hard to make predictions for the WWDC Keynote.
Apple is a leader because they know what they want. When you think about it, knowing what you want is one pre-requisite for leadership. That's why sessions at WWDC are approved based not only technical merit but on where Apple is headed, what it wants and where it wants to take developers.
Apple has been working on Snow Leopard for well over a year. While we take it for granted that Snow Leopard will be superior to Windows 7, Apple has to first do the hard work of developing tools and APIs and then get developers excited about them. It's that excitement that translates into products that showcase the back end work Apple has done. So I look for Mr. Schiller to start out with an update on Snow Leopard, OpenCL, Grand Central, and the next version of Xcode to exploit all of that.
Because Apple made a big deal about Exchange server in Snow Leopard and because Apple likes to work itself, on its own terms, into small to medium businesses, I also expect to see some demos of an iPhone connecting to a Snow Leopard server running Microsoft Exchange to check corporate e-mail. That's an agenda item, but not vert sexy, so I also expect to see some Leopard vs. Snow Leopard speed demos, using highly threaded apps, and that ought to get the juices flowing in the audience.
A late beta copy of Snow Leopard and the latest Xcode will be given out after the Keynote, but the version of Snow Leopard will be just good enough to generate some buzz, do those final developer compiles, but won't be feature complete or bug free enough to use for every day use. For that, we'll have to pay more money in September. Snow Leopard will not be supported on PPC Macs.
Next on Apple's agenda is fanning the flames of frenzy for the iPhone market place. To do that, I would expect to see two things: first, Mr. Schiller will show the sales growth numbers for the iPhone along with some cleverly selected data to suggest that RIM and Nokia are having some difficulties in the consumer market. This will put the idea in the developers' minds that they've selected the winning horse and that there's lots of money to be made. Secondly, there will some demos of apps by Apple (creating inspiration) and hand selected developers (creating envy) that showcase the new features of iPhone OS 3.0.
Next, Mr. Schiller will announce some a new iPhone and price changes. There won't be any mention of a deal with Verizon, but there will be an introductory discussion of AT&Ts 7.2 HSPA network. Perhaps we'll see some download demos comparing 3.6 HSPA vs 7.2 HSPA.
Then, Mr. Schiller will introduce a new 32 GB iPhone based on that new standard. (It will be backwards compatible to EDGE.). It'll have a few extra features that will lure a lot of people without an iPhone into the fold, but won't be enough to make the rest of us ditch our current 3G iPhones. For example, an Organic LED display (OLED) and a better camera.
Finally, Mr Schiller will announce that Apple and AT&T are lowering the price of the subsidized 16 GB 3.6 HSPA iPhone to US$129.99 and AT&T is lowering the data plan price by $10/month. The new 32 GB high end iPhone will inherit the previous $199.99 price point.
When we journalists walk out of the Presidio Hall, we'll feel a bit let down at first. No Media Pad. No MacNetBook. No new 30-inch display with DisplayPort. No new Apple TV. But then, after a little bit of reflection, we'll rush back to the press room and write about how Apple's Snow Leopard will make Windows 7 look just silly, how Mac Pros will be transformed by Snow Leopard into computational behemoths and how the iPhone has now further extended its lead over the competition. Turn out the lights, the Palm Pre party is already over.
Developers will walk out of the hall feeling that they picked the right company, and that company has provided them with the right tools. As a result, they'll be able to make bunches of money. That's, after all, the goal of a keynote, affirmation and inspiration.
Not a lot of glitz there, but business as usual for Apple at WWDC.