Apple WWDC 2012: iOS 6, iCloud, OS X and Macs

By Jonny Evans

Announced yesterday, Apple [AAPL] WWDC extravaganza sold out in just two hours as 5,000 developers coughed-up $1,600 each to attend, grabbing the company a cool $8 million as they did. So, what can we expect from this year's show? Read on for the Crazy Apple Rumors guide to what to expect:

Screen_shot_2012-04-26_at_12_57_05_0.jpg

Executive summary

WWDC is all about developers. This means Apple will be focusing on future software releases, principally iOS 6; Mountain Lion and the addition of new dev-friendly hooks into the iCloud. With smart money now favoring a 2013 launch for the self-branded Apple television, the much-improved (15-inch) MacBook (Air?) will be the hardware star of the show. I'm speculating Mountain Lion could be made available as a public beta, while the company tests the integration between the new OS and the future iOS 6. The iPhone 5 will not be introduced here this year.

[ABOVE: To understand the future, look to the past: Apple's 2011 keynote available here in full.]

The keynote

The not-yet-announced-but-let's-face-it-there-will-probably-be-one keynote will see Apple's Tim Cook, Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall take a moment to utter a collective "farewell" to company co-founder, Steve Jobs, who traditionally led the WWDC keynote. Developers will not be blind to his passing, and will feel the need for a public expression of that loss at this unique event. Apple's leaders will talk about the state of Mac and iOS marketshare (up, and up), proselytize the new Apple is a mobile company message and introduce us too:

Mountain Lion

Currently in private beta among developers, Mountain Lion is the next edition of OS X. The software integrates some of the features you'd logically expect would come across from the iPad.

The OS includes the new Messages app, Notes, Reminders, Game Center, Notification Center, Share Sheets,  support for AirPlay mirroring. Developers gain new Game Kit APIs, improved graphics, video and Core Animation calls and much-improved support for MultiTouch. Gatekeeper security (which should put paid to some of these insidious Java-based attacks), and iCloud integration...

It is possible the new OS will be released at the show, but I have a hunch Apple will need to test the system against iOS 6 a little more first. Apple has previously committed to more frequent OS X upgrades.

Free upgrades for Macs?

Taking another leaf from iOS, will Mountain Lion and subsequent OS X releases be free? It is interesting that the company recently began offering OS X Snow Leopard for free to Mobile Me members who hadn't yet made the switch to iCloud.

Also interesting that the company recently began accounting for a portion of Mac sales revenues on a subscription basis, as it does with some iPhone revenue. If Apple wants to make the operating system free (creating yet another unique selling point against Windows as it does), it has the cash, the clout, and the accounting procedure, to do just that.

iCloud

iCloud isn't an OS feature. iCloud is part of the future of the OS. Don't even think about Google's privacy-destroying Google Drive, iCloud will deliver Mac and iOS users a rubber-clad walled garden they want to be inside -- a private place of peace surrounded by a bomb-proof security cordon. In future, I suspect the OS will move off the device and into the cloud, but this will not be immediate -- network infrastructure, IP address shortages, broadband access, the cost of connectivity -- these things are genuine barriers to the evolution of such a future, but these barriers will fall, eventually.

This year, developers will see Apple explain the new things they can do when it comes to building iCloud support into their apps. For example, documents will be kept secure; sync will enable all manner of interesting app enhancements. As is usual with Apple, expect improvements to be incremental. Look to the detail to comprehend the direction.

iOS 6

We all know the direction is mobile. The BYOD craze that's transforming corporate IT; a billion smartphone sales; the all-new iPad industry (termed by some the 'tablet' industry, but they mean iPad and just can't bring themselves to say it); these are all the signs we should need to see the future mobile direction. So, what can we expect from iOS 6?

We know the OS is being tested at the moment -- it has turned up in Web logs for some websites. In truth, there's been lots of chatter but little substance on what this iteration will include. I'd anticipate wider language support for Siri; some form of dual app support on the iPad; a choice in which voice (male or female) Siri offers; Apple Maps and voice controls for iTunes.

We could even see Siri begin to make its move from the mobile device to the Mac. Which would be nice.

I can imagine the new OS being made available to developers at or around WWDC: Apple will want to test its much tighter integration with Mountain Lion. I imagine the new mobile OS will ship slightly in advance of the release of the iPhone 5 in Fall. Partly because this is what Apple did last year, though Apple under Tim Cook appears less a creature of habit, and more a sophisticated Ninja-led fighting force.

Hardware

Because we like things. Recent reports have claimed Apple intends introducing upgraded MacBook Pro models starting in May, with a smaller, lighter model set to ship in June. This makes it possible developers will be wooed with a much-improved MacBook Air, the only question being if a 15-inch pro version only slightly less powerful than the equivalent model MacBook Pro will take a WWDC debut.

The only loser in such an event will be optical drive manufacturers, a group for whom the writing is already on the wall as Intel puts its muscle behind Ultrabooks, meaning the optical drive is being phased out across Mac and PC.

That new breeds of Ultrabook from many PC vendors are beginning to ship makes Apple more likely to attempt to wield some of the global media attention it will inevitably gather at WWDC toward its MacBook Air range. This makes it highly probable the company may upgrade that range at or around WWDC.

The reaction

-- WWDC's software focus means some media outlets will moan about the comparative lack of hardware.

-- The perceived delay between the promise and actual availability of iOS 6 and (potentially) Mountain Lion will see the usual naysayers saying nay;

-- The new keynote line-up will draw inevitable comparisons with the superstar presentation skills of Steve Jobs.

-- Continued speculation of an Apple television and/or a 7-inch iPad will also be disappointed, driving yet more grousing from other sources.

Small-minded short-term negative reactions won't matter too much, as WWDC will see Apple set the scene for its activities in the year ahead, with iTunes, the iPhone 5, iPad 4, iCloud, and the future Apple television set to maintain the company's growth.

I'm interested to hear what you might also be expecting from Apple's developer show. Please jot down your hopes, fears and expectations in comments below.

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld.

FREE Computerworld Insider Guide: Five IT certifications that won’t break you
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies