On Sunday morning, at least 24 hours before Tim Cook starts his keynote at Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference, hundreds of coders are teeming outside the San Jose Convention Centre venue. The annual event, popularly known as WWDC or just Dub-Dub, is returning to San Jose after 15 years in San Francisco.
In effect, the event is returning to the Silicon Valley as San Francisco is still not considered part of the same. However, while coming closer to the developers, the event — or at least the keynote which gets all the eyeballs — might find itself veering towards a more consumer-pleasing role this year.
The expectation is that the keynote, which usually has more on the software side of Apple’s business, will end up with a long list of hardware announcements this time. Apple’s regulatory applications are being cited to predict that there will be a new range of MacBooks, iPads and maybe a completely new product in a Siri-based smart speaker to counter Google Home and Amazon Alexa. But then this is Apple and till these are announced on stage they firmly stay in the space of speculation.
WWDC will also give a clear indication of the general direction the tech giant will move in this year. There were at least a couple of significant announcements last year, among them the move to give more features to iMessages in a bid to help it stop from using then more powerfully platforms like Line and WeChat. But there is an impression now the Apple over-delivered with Messages and users are not really able to comprehend the vast feature list put in place. It remains to be seen if Apple makes a course correction here or brings in more to messaging platform.
In other developer announcements, there could be hidden indications to what new hardware features might come in the new iPhones later this year. Certainly, Apple would make it too obvious, but experts will be trying their best to look for signs.
Similarly, last year it seemed clear that Apple was banking significantly on Siri for the future with devices like the Airpods. If there is at all a speaker that lets users have smart conversations with Apple’s virtual assistant, then it will become clear that like its rivals Cupertino too believes there is more to be gained in this hands-free future of devices However, there are already reports this so-called Siri speaker might be delayed and availability will be end-2017 or early 2018.
Interestingly, from an Indian perspective, it would be good to see if there is any mention of the start of trial production of the Apple iPhone SE in Bengaluru. Could there be a new iPhone SE version to bump up sales of this two-year-old model, maybe with a new price tag? Well, that is something to look forward to.
If there is anything certain, it is the fact that the new MacBooks announced will jump to the Intel Kaby Lake series of processors to give them the firepower to take on Microsoft’s new products. While in the US some are predicting that the MacBook Air might soon be wound up, it would be surprising if Apple does so with a product that still rakes in huge volumes across the world. The MacBook might have become thinner, but it is still way too expensive to make an impact in price sensitive markets like India.
(The author is in San Jose on the invite of Apple, which is paying for travel and accommodation)