Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) doesn't kick off until tomorrow, but the internet's been wildly speculating about the company's plans for months. Some of it is almost definite (hello, flat design) and some of it's absurd (stop it with this). Here are all the goodies we actually expect Tim Cook and his funky bunch throw at us Monday. And remember, you can follow it all on our meta-liveblog here.
If there's anything we can be almost positive about seeing on stage tomorrow, it's the new, improved, and very very likely smashed-flat iOS 7. As if you needed any more confirmation that an iOS 7 revamp was going to headline the event, the WSJ just confirmed it in a late-breaking report.
Apple MacBook Air Laptop
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The most notable feature to Apple's overhauled platform, of course, will be the presumably updated design forged by the hands of Jony Ive. Gone should be the skeumorphism that most of us have grown to, well, tolerate, and in its place should come cleaner lines, brighter colors, and an otherwise more Metro-like aesthetic. Whatever the change may be won't be a total shift; an overhaul to the degree we've been seeing in some of the mockups floating around would definitely be unsettling to some users. But you can expect to be carrying around a cleaner, simpler, and overall more pleasant experience in some form. A change that looks a little like this:
As far as functionality goes, there's a very good chance Flickr and Vimeo integration—which already exist for OS X Mountain Lion—should be making its way to your iOS device in much the way it has integrated Facebook and Twitter. And this is likely going to be part of the generally more efficient experience Apple is aiming towards.
It seems inevitable that the lockscreen will be redesigned. And while we still don't know exactly how, an improved way of accessing notifications is definitely on the table. Which will then take you to your new and improved Notification Center that could very well turn your desired information into sets of widgets, meaning the exact information you're looking for would be much easier to spot.
Overall, we're definitely expecting the biggest change in iOS 7 to be aesthetic. Anything else is just gravy.
Both the MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are just about due for a refresh, which will almost certainly center around a bump to Intel's new Haswell processors. And diminishing stock certainly supports that notion. There is some hope of a MacBook Air with a retina display, although that particular addition probably isn't worth holding your breath for.
But that doesn't mean you won't be seeing a still-lovely Air update! Supposedly, 9 to 5 Mac got a look at the previously leaked SKUs, confirming that we will in fact be seeing four fresh new MacBook Airs. which would likely be the extent of the hardware updates. They'll also be coming with 802.11ac for faster Wi-Fi along with new Airport and Time Capsules to support the boost. As far as new hardware goes and other than those awesome new processors, that's about all we can really expect.
OS X 10.9
There's been word of an OS X 10.9 (internally/fancily codenamed Cabernet) delay floating around that claims iOS 7 development forced Apple to pull engineers from OS X. But considering that WWDC is for, as its name might suggest, developers, the chances of not at least getting a preview of the updated operating system are incredibly low. So while we might not be able to get our grubby little hands on it right away, we'll have some idea of what to expect.
As part of a general trend towards total, seamless integration between Macs and mobile devices, 10.9 should likely have some performance tweaks as far as things like iCloud and iMessage go, both of which have been notoriously unreliable . There have also been some reports that 10.9 will finally feature Siri integration, which would hopefully mean some performance tweaks for Siri herself. A move towards more comprehensive voice control would definitely make sense for Apple, especially following Google's recent impressive voice search rollout.
And while it's highly unlikely we'll see a complete user experience overhaul, there will supposedly be some power-user enhancements that mostly focus on things like tags and tabbed browsing in Finder. So the devs in the audience next week should be thrilled. The more casual user likely won't even notice. Enhanced multi-monitor support should also be hitting, which is something users have been waiting far too long for.
Considering that Apple has recently acquired 18 patents from Maya Systems related to "innovative axis-based user interface technology," it's possible we MAY see a major improvement to the way you interact with Cloud.
iCloud is majorly lacking as far as allowing users to control and interact with the files they have stored, and browsing from mobile devices is virtually impossible. So Apple's definitely going to need to make the move at some point—iCloud needs to become much more transparent and easier to manage if its going to compete with the third-party cloud services currently littering the market.
Part of this iCloud overhaul could be announcement of the long-awaited, long-overdue iRadio, the music streaming service Apple's had a bit of trouble getting off the ground. Namely because, at least initially, Apple decided to play the part of parsimonious bastard in their rights negotiations with record labels. After realizing that their offer of 6 cents per 100 listens was, perhaps, a bit stingy (considering Pandora's rate is 12 cents and Spotify's 35), they reportedly raised their offer to match Pandora's.
But supposedly—and after managing to get both Warner Music and Universal Music Group on board—Sony may still be holding Apple back from its streaming dreams. In early May, there was word floating around that the music giant wanted Apple to cough up more than what they get from Pandora, reasoning that Sony deserves it due to Apple's "broader ambitions." A smart move on Sony's side should iRadio become as big as iTunes—but also one that could be holding us back from seeing what sort of streaming service Apple's been cooking up for just a bit longer.
Update: On Friday, Sony relented, which means—as that WSJ report also confirms—iRadio is imminent.
AirDrop for iOS
There's been a consistent flurry of rumors that iOS may finally feature AirDrop integration ever since the peer-to-peer file-sharing feature hit OS X Lion over two years ago. And just as luck has it—the rumors are back!
Should the dream become a reality, you'd be able to transfer photos and documents directly to a friend's device, which will catch all your generously shared goodies in a special downloads folder. It's incredibly easy for Apple to slash a segment of iOS at the last minute, so it's just as possible that we'll be coming up AirDrop-less again next week. But according to 9 to 5 Mac, AirDrop—should it exist—will be able to work between two iOS devices and maybe between iOS and OS X.
The WSJ didn't mention AirDrop by name, but it did report that iOS 7 would include "new ways to share photos and videos with other iPhone users." Which sounds about right.
Remember to check back tomorrow for all the action; we'll be firing up the ol' liveblog machine at noon EDT/9 am PDT.