Your 2013 WWDC Forecast

9 June 13

Time for WWDC predictions. Again, by the International Treaty of Apple Bloggers and Technical Union (UN Resolution 561/652B), I am legally obligated to disclose the forthcoming predictions.

iOS Devices

Zip. Nothing. Nada.

Mac Portables

We will see a general refresh of the MacBook line, with incremental processor upgrades to the MacBook Airs, but more significant changes to the MacBook Pro line.

The Airs will have run a new Haswell chip set, a Core i5 at speeds probably starting around 2.3 Ghz. They will also get a bump in battery life, possibly an extra 2 hours. They will not be touch screens.

The Pro line is due for some pruning. The 13 and 15 inch non-retinas alongside 13 and 15 inch retinas appears to be overkill. Apple might drop the 15-inch non-retina. I’m inclined to think they’ll keep the 13-inch non-retina, because it’s a good education machine and a good base model for the pro line, and they just made some price changes to it. A new 15-inch retina MacBook Pro with low flash storage could fill in the price gap.

The 13 and 15 retinas should also get a Haswell chip set, at 2.5 and 3.1 Ghz speeds.

Mac Desktops

Apple is the one that brought the desktop personal computer into this world, and they’re going to be the ones to take them out. I expect a completely new replacement for the Mac Pro line.

There is, really, no clear reason to unveil a completely new Mac Pro. But we know that when Apple needed to comply with recycling standards in Europe a few months ago, the Mac Pro was pulled outright rather than altered. It was a big hint that a replacement was on the way. So with a good clue that the Mac Pro is in store for a re-vamp, what is it about the Mac Pro that needed changing?

The only pressing tech change needed is a couple of Thunderbolt connectors – that’s been the most lacking element of the Pro. Therefore, I don’t expect anything too radical from where we are today in terms of specs. Faster, absolutely, but within the known limits of the market.

The only real change that Apple can deem necessary is to make the Mac Pro a dream machine for the pro market while giving it new use cases, to expand into the pro-sumer market. So I think the most radical change will be in the area of the design. I expect the machine will be both a rack-mountable unit and a desktop unit in the same style of case. I can see it as aesthetically merging with a re-styled Mac mini, and also as it’s own thing. Apple must be tempted to make the mini and the Pro into one “line” of computers, given that they fill very similar needs for a lot of techie users.

It wouldn’t shock me to see the mini re-positioned as a mini Mac Pro, and then a physically larger but visually similar case for the Pro. Both would also be marketed under the same name.

I can also see the Mac Pro another way, designed more as a docking unit. Picture a Drobo-style case, with not only swappable drives, but swappable cards and even processors.

Does this get released at WWDC? Some people are highly doubtful, but I think this is the prime event to announce it, and it would be hard to see this machine being introduced at any other time and still have maximum impact.

Mac OS

Note the title. Not Mac OS X. I think Apple’s going to draw a line between “Mac” and “OS X,” and use the term “Mac OS” as a substitute for “Mac UI.”

The Mac OS doesn’t beg for big upgrades right now, but it does need some feature matching with iOS. It needs better iCloud support, first and foremost. It could use a cloud backup feature, more support between Mac and iOS iLife and iWork apps, Siri, and further development of the notifications panel.

I also think we’ll see, really for the first time, some new iOS features announced for the Mac OS simultaneously. I can’t say what, though. I just think thats how Apple would want to treat the two platforms going forward, as close cousins that get the same upgrades.

Snow Lion? Nah, that would tick off China. Lynx? Is that too much like Linux? Ocelot? It’d be fun to say, but kinda goofy. We may need to move on to a new subfamily. Mac OS Sleepy Kitten? The ads would be great.


Here’s where we’ll see the biggest stuff.

I think the biggest tech news out of WWDC will be iCloud. I also think it will be downplayed a little, and just folded into the capabilities of the OS. Marketing iCloud has not moved the needle. Just including its’ capabilities in what iOS and Mac OS do is a better strategy. See the article What is iCloud to get a fuller take on what iCloud could be. Just to add some details, I think we’ll get the Core Data issue fixed, and we’ll get iRadio and iBooks in the cloud.

Apple will also upgrade iMovie and iPhoto with photo and movie-taking enhancements to match or beat Samsung. They can’t let Samsung get a lead into consumer-level media creation. That’s Apple’s home turf.

Apple needs a device-to-device file transfer, and Air Drop is going to be it.

I also think the system preferences section could get a re-vamp with a more clear organization of settings. It’s been the same for a long time and needs clarification. I’d like to get some of these settings like Airplane Mode made into buttons on the home screen or in the notifications screen.

I hope the app and music discovery process gets a big kick in the butt. I’m a little confused why Apple uses just a one-to-one discovery system. You wind up with stuff like “You have one Fleetwood Mac song in your library? You must love all seventies soft rock that’s ever been recorded! Why don’t we constantly suggest it!” It would make more sense to cross-reference music libraries and say “we note that people who have both Item A and Item B also had Item C.”

The much-talked-about Jony Ive “influence” on the iOS UI will certainly be the most interesting thing to watch. You can lose the felt in Game Center, but it can’t lose it’s relevance. Green felt did communicate what Game Center did. If you remove the felt and give no context, that’s a mistake I don’t want to see. But I have faith in Jony and his team. And who’s to say that the changes don’t become part of Mac OS?

The “7” banner at WWDC is a huge clue for me. It looks like a new default background texture. I think that the look of iOS is about to get the Braun treatment. I also think that Helvetica will become the new typeface of Apple.

Another area to watch is iMessage. It’s been getting new features every time iOS gets a new revision, and I’m not ruling out that iMessage might go with wifi phone calls. That would be a huge thing, and it’s a matter of time before 3rd party telephony apps take the calling experience out of Apple’s hands. Either they grab calling back and tell the carriers to go suck an egg, or they let others take the torch.