Like many Apple events over the past several years, the keynote at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) tomorrow has created a superstorm of hype and speculation. The Apple rumor mill has been on overdrive in recent days, in part because Apple hasn't held a media event or launched any major new products since October. With a seemingly unrelenting chorus that Apple has ceased innovating and lost its way -- you can blame Wall Street, some in the tech media or even mainstream press outlets for the doom and gloom -- there's an extra sense of urgency about this particular keynote and what Apple CEO Tim Cook may or may not announce.
A couple of important unveilings are certain to occur: Apple has already said it will offer developers, both those at the event and those that couldn't make it, preview releases of iOS 7 and OS X 10.9. Apple will almost certainly deliver its roadmap for when and how both OS updates will be released and offer some insights into their new features.
The list of possible announcements -- possible, not necessarily likely -- includes more information about next-generation iPhones and iPads, including a low cost/low-end iPhone model; new Mac laptops; a revamped tower to replace the aging Mac Pro; a streaming music service; the much-hyped iWatch; updates to iCloud; the ability to build apps for the Apple TV; and a new version of iWork (the current Mac version of the iWork apps originally came bundled as iWork '09). iOS 7 is also presumed to have a significantly updated user interface as a result of Jony Ive's guidance as well as a much improved Maps solution and potential expansion of Siri's capabilities (which might also migrate into OS X).
All the speculation leading up to Monday's keynote has largely been driven by pundits, investors and Apple fans and critics -- and most of them are missing the point about just what WWDC is about.
WWDC is the single most important event in Apple's calendar this year (and every year), but not because of the keynote address and anything the company may roll out. In fact, the really important announcements at WWDC will be the ones that occur later in the day or week, the ones that the media isn't invited to watch.
WWDC isn't about the media and the public, as much as Apple might use it to tease everyone with glimpses of what's coming down the technology pike. It's about the 5,000 developers that were lucky enough to score a ticket for $1,599 (not including flights or hotels) in the roughly two minutes before they all sold out in April. And, for the first time, it's also about the developers that aren't in San Francisco, but will be soaking in much of that same information via session videos Apple has promised to make available this week -- while the conference is still under way.
More than any other company, Apple has proven how important a committed and engaged developer community is to success in today's technology business. Without that community, the iPhone might never have gained much traction and the iPad might never have made it to market at all. There's a reason Apple's App Store has such a healthy retinue of apps, and that ecosystem is a big reason for the success of Apple's iDevices.