Will Apple have surprises at WWDC?

What does Apple have in store for its big annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) conference in two weeks? Everybody expects the new iPhone, but some expect more, maybe a big cloud computing announcement.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster says there's "little room" for surprises at WWDC. The big news will be a new "significantly redesigned" iPhone, with increased capacity, priced at $199 for 32 GB and $299 for 64 GB, the same price points as the current, lower-capacity iPhone 3GS, Munster said in an e-mailed alert on Tuesday.

My two cents: Don't fixate on the cost of the device, the real cost of your mobile phone is in the monthly service fees.

The new device's video chat capabilities will be featured in a TV commercial directed by American Beauty director Sam Mendes, according to Joshua Topolsky, writing at Engadget.

Driving new demand

Apple now offers the two-year-old iPhone 3G at $99, and might replace that with last year's 3GS, Munster said.

"Bottom line: WWDC will likely be in-line with expectations, and a non-event for the stock, but the new iPhone will likely drive unit sales beyond Street expectations, providing a positive catalyst for shares of AAPL in the coming months," Munster said.

The new iPhone will have a new, thinner design, front-facing camera for video conferencing and better battery life, Munster said. It will also likely support multi-tasking for third-party applications.

The new iPhone will likely be announced June 7, the first day of WWDC, and may be available a few weeks later, Munster said. I've seen other reports that say the new iPhone will be available June 7, the day of the launch, which is unusual for Apple; the company usually likes to wait a few weeks between announcement and availability for big products like a new iPhone.

Munster rates his iPhone predictions as "likely." I'd say they're almost definite, given all the advance leaks and rumors.

AT&T only

He says he sees it as "unlikely" the new iPhone will be available from Verizon or Sprint, and likely that it will remain exclusive to AT&T in the US at launch.

An iPad sales update is "possible," Munster says. I'd say it's almost definite; the iPad has been selling like gangbusters since it came out, and Steve Jobs likes to use an event like a WWDC keynote to brag about success of recently announced products.

Munster says a new Mac OS demo is "possible." I'd be very surprised to see it, WWDC is an iPhone- and iPad-focused event this year.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, disagrees with Munster's no-surprises prediction; Gottheil says Apple might produce some surprises. He says Apple might announce cloud computing initiatives, possibly hosted application services like those offered by Amazon and Google, or cloud-based streaming music based on the LaLa service, which Apple acquired and shut down.

In other Apple news:

Wal-Mart planned to cut prices on last year's iPhone 3GS to $97, my colleague Gregg Keizer reported. That prediction proved to be correct, according to the Wal-Mart Web site. Customers will need to sign up for a two-year AT&T contract to get the deal, notes Cult of Mac's John Brownlee. Don't get too excited about Wal-Mart's low iPhone price; like I said, the contract is where the real cost kicks in.

Apple is discontinuing the 8 GB iPhone 3G, according to Boy Genius Report.

And Yankee Stadium banned iPads, according to Yahoo Sports's "'Duk." As if there weren't already enough reasons to hate the Yankees.

Mitch Wagner is a freelance technology journalist and social media strategist. Follow him on Twitter: @MitchWagner.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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