Predictions: WWDC 2009

wwdc09_badgeApple is hosting its annual World-Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) next week at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California. The company’s Senior VP of Worldwide Product Marketing, Phil Schiller, will lead the executive team through the keynote presentation on Monday, June 8th.

Seeing as how that is just under a week away, I figured now would be a good time for me to weigh in on my predictions for what will happen at the keynote.

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard & iPhone OS 3.0

Snow Leopard

It is a very safe bet that we will see both Mac OS X Snow Leopard and iPhone OS 3.0 at WWDC. Apple said as much in its WWDC press release.

So far, the general public hasn’t received a great deal of concrete information about Snow Leopard from Apple itself. The things we can expect for sure at this point are a full 64-bit OS; Microsoft Exchange support in Mail, iCal, and Address Book; QuickTime X; “Grand Central” – a technology that will make Mac OS X completely multicore aware; and OpenCL (Open Computing Language), which will allows applications to tap into the GPU for added computing power.

Overall, that’s a lot of geeky under-the-hood stuff that end users won’t explicitly see (but they’ll probably notice their computers become a lot more powerful). Apple said at last year’s WWDC that Snow Leopard wouldn’t introduce any new end-user features (like Exposé in 10.3, Dashboard in 10.4, or QuickLook, Spaces, and Time Machine in 10.5). Instead, Apple is using Snow Leopard to further refine the newest foundations within 10.5 Leopard.

Traditionally, Apple has charged $129 for major OS X versions. I surely know this because I have shelled out for 10.3, 10.4, and 10.5. Without some features that the marketing department can use to flash in end-user’s faces, I don’t know if Apple will be able to sell many people on 10.6. At least, not at $129, especially in this economic climate.

So either Apple will offer it for less, or they will have to add in something that is marketable to the masses. The rumor mill has been purporting that Snow Leopard will introduce an overhauled User Interface code-named “Marble.” This is quite possible, however, I am really liking the current Leopard UI. The only change I would really like to see to the UI is to get rid of the dated Aqua scrollbars and progress bars found in many apps (like Safari). Instead, replace them with the blue-ish grey scrollbars from iTunes, iPhoto, and iMovie.

I predict there will be some new UI paint, a surprise feature that Apple just couldn’t resist adding, and that Snow Leopard will sell for $99. We’ll also get a shipping date, my guess is around September.

iPhone OS 3.0

The new and improved iPhone OS will be the key feature of the keynote. Expect to see lots of third-party developer demos to ad nauseam. We’ll also see all the features we saw at the March SDK event, again.

I also think we’ll see some new features of OS 3.0 that will be exclusive to new iPhone hardware, which I will discuss in the next section.

Of course, we’ll get a final ship date on this as well. If I would have written this yesterday I would have guessed the ship date would coincide with the new iPhone hardware release (currently rumored for July 17). But, my mind changed today, and I think we’ll see iPhone OS 3.0 on all current iPhones within a couple of weeks.

Why? iTunes 8.2 was released today. For the past few betas of iPhone OS 3.0, a pre-release version of iTunes 8.2 was required to activate iPhones and iPods touch running the beta firmware. With iTunes 8.2 being in the wild now, and one of the key features listed was compatability with iPhone OS 3.0, I just think Apple is planning to release 3.0 very, very soon.

Also, Apple has been requiring that all apps submitted to the App Store be compatible with 3.0 for weeks now. I imagine this means ,most developers have already submitted, or are planning to very soon, apps that meet that requirement.

Finally, there is the snafu from last year’s iPhone OS 2.0 launch. Talk about a disaster. Last year, in case you don’t remember, Apple released the iPhone 3G, iPhone OS 2.0, the App Store, and MobileMe all on one day. And it was a complete meltdown. Apple rarely makes the same mistake twice.

I think this time around we’ll see iPhone OS 3.0 launch ahead of the new iPhone hardware. And I think we’ll see it within two weeks. Three at the latest.

A New iPhone

I’m not sure anyone doubts that there will be new iPhone hardware soon. The rumor mill has been flipping rampant with spy shots and the like. My thoughts on the matter are that the new iPhone will have come in 16- and 32-GB capacities, at the $199 and $299 price points, respectively. The 8GB model may stick around at a more budget-friendly $149, but I’m pretty skeptical about that.

Also, I think the new iPhone will have the rumored 3.2 megapixel auto-focus camera, be video-capable, and have a magnometer (digital compass). Also, I think the flavor of iPhone OS 3.0 that comes on these devices will have added functionality in the Camera and Maps apps to leverage these technologies.

It’s likely a safe bet to assume that the device will sport a faster processor and more memory. Furthermore, many of the spy shots have focused on the back casing of the device, showing a plastic matte finish. I’m hoping so, for better grip and resistance to scratches.

Lastly, I have more of a hope than a prediction. On MacBreak Weekly 142, Scott Bourne said he had a couple sources within Verizon, one being high-level within the company, who said that Verizon would be getting an iPhone and that it would be announced in June. Now, AT&T is pretty decent in Lincoln, NE, where I live. But it is currently non-existent in South Dakota, where I’m from. So my iPhone becomes pretty useless as a phone when I visit family. If Verizon were to get the iPhone, I’d be finding a way out of my AT&T contract pretty quickly.

Granted, AT&T has announced they are coming to South Dakota in 2010-2011, but that’s quite some time away. And who knows what kind of coverage they’ll have. Judging from their overall coverage of Nebraska, it doesn’t look great. Outside of Omaha, Lincoln, and their surrounding communities, AT&T is pretty absent from the Cornhusker State.

Verizon’s coverage is nearly ubiquitous in the Midwest, and pretty much everywhere in the contiguous United States. Yes, this would mean Apple would have to make a CDMA iPhone in addition to a GSM iPhone, but I would think the amount of customers they would pick up in the US would make it worth it.So yes, I am really wishing for a Verizon iPhone.

Tablet Device

I think Apple is working on something like an oversized iPod touch to answer the netbook market, but I don’t think we’ll see it on Monday. I honestly think it would get a special media event all to itself.

MacBook Pro/MacBook Speed Bumps

I think we’ll see some speed bumps on the unibody notebooks. However, they’ll either get one slide in the keynote or be relegated to a post-keynote press release.

The Triumphant Return of Steve Jobs

I think Phil Schiller will do a One More Thing™ and that will be to welcome Steve Jobs back from his medical leave. I think Jobs’ stage time will be brief and at the end, but I think he’ll be up there nonetheless.

That’s all I have for predictions and hopes/dreams. We’ll see on June 8th!

If you have any thoughts, please leave them in the comments.