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Posted on Jun 13, 2016

Is there still some time for my annual WWDC predictions?

Of course there’s still time! Although I have to admit, I am ready to be underwhelmed this year.

Why? Well, because it is getting harder and harder to imagine what revolutionary idea could be unleashed on the world these days. And expectations have gotten to the point where if Tim Cook doesn’t announce a flying car that runs off of the emissions of other cars, turning all of our smog into lovely, breathable oxygen, then Apple’s stock will dive after the curtains fall on the keynote.

So what am I expecting? Evolutionary change. Slow, dull, but ultimately important small changes everywhere. I expect Mac OS X to become macOS, because I read the same rumor blogs that everyone else does now. macOS and iOS will continue to converge. I expect to hear all about new features across all of the OS products – macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS. I don’t expect to hear about flyingcarOS for a while still, and I don’t expect much discussion of CarPlay. A mention, perhaps, but nothing earth shattering But I do expect that there will be a disproportionate amount of time spect talking about Apple Music as part of the updated OSes.

Services. Apple Music will get a major overhaul. The first gen product was nice, and I have kept paying for it past the free trial because I like being able to say “Hey Siri, play [obscure song] by [obscure artist]” and more often than not, hear that song. Makes commuting by car more tolerable. And yes, there will be a lot of discussion about Siri today. I expect that she will present part of the keynote.

Apple TV… won’t get the overhaul it needs. Why? Because it isn’t about hardware at this point, it’s about the business model that TV – especially cable – is clinging to. So no revolutionary service announcement where I can subscribe to all the channels I want and none that I don’t, with over the air live stations in the mix to be delivered online. So, cord cutting will continue at current paces until there isn’t enough money in cable television, and the providers collapse and become straight up ISPs. But by this time next year, I expect I’ll be using a patchwork setup of Netflix, HBONow, Hulu, SlingTV, Starz, CBS All-Access and iTunes to entertain myself. Especially since Netflix produces the best shows around now. Will Apple buy Netflix? Well, they totally missed out on LinkedIn so…

iCloud is ripe for exploitation. Will this be the year that Apple finally goes big? Part of me really hopes so – and another part of me is sick of people signing up for things with my email address. What would be ideal in this space? Make people forget that DropBox exists. Back up all of my photos for free. Continue moving everything that is on my computer into the cloud so that when I pick up any device I own, I have access to everything I use everywhere. So, basically, iterate on what is there until I can’t live without it. Best thing they can do here has nothing to do with new features, and everything to do with reliability.

I think we’ll see something about the next gen Apple Watch. This is a developer show, and I expect Apple to get around to having all apps run native on the watch. Tell them now, update the SDK and let them at it. I love my Apple Watch – but the apps that run via the iPhone are… painful. Pointless. I can’t wait to see what’s next in this area.

The one area that might be ripe for revolution? Home Kit. The home automation market is disjointed, and awkward. Why do I want any of these devices? Why don’t I want all of them? I do, I do, but it isn’t clear how this is all going to work out. I am intrigued by the Amazon Echo, Nest, Hunter Douglas smart blinds, Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerator… but I don’t want to kluge these kinds of things together in a way that is sloppy. I want it all nicely integrated. Do I want an Apple refrigerator? No, but I want Apple to figure out how to make all these things play nice with my iPhone. What does that look like? I don’t know, but I keep hoping that someone at Apple does.

Hardware… new Apple Watch? Maybe, but I keep thinking that they’ll do a two year cycle instead of one for the watch. New iOS devices? No – what would we have to look forward to in September if they did that? New monitor? I hope so. New Mac Pro? That would be lovely to pair with the new monitor, and the Mac Pro is seemingly destined to always be out of date. It would be lovely for them to establish a cadence for Pro updates. I’d love to know that every January – or whenever – I should expect to salivate over the most cutting edge specs and features at outrageous prices. New Macbook is the most likely hardware to show up. Contextual toucher replacing the function row of keys? Color me intrigued. And, again, this is a developer show. Give them the reigns and let’s see what is possible.

So yeah, evolutionary. Nothing earth shattering. That will have to wait a while until we realize where we have arrived. This is a lovely technological peak to surveil the future from and decide where to go next. Is Apple ready to show us the next peak? I don’t expect so, but I would love to be surprised. Oh, to heck with it, just sign me up for an iFridge and have it delivered by an iTruck! Let’s go visit the future!

Posted on Jun 8, 2015

WWDC 2015 Annual Predictions

Like a groundhog, once a year here I am, predicting the imminent future. As in, what is Apple going to tantalize us with this year? Or, alternatively, what do I wish they’d reveal? My list has a few repeats every year, and it seems that one of my favorite unicorns is about to be spotted, while another has vanished completely.

It seems that Apple won’t be releasing an actual television anytime soon. This rumor was always a bit confusing to me. A TV is ajust a big flat panel, and all the smarts that you can put into it and upgrade on a regular basis won’t justify buying a new 80″ TV every year. I’m willing to let it go. Especially since the iCar is everyone’s new favorite Apple Unicorn.

For me, if Apple finally reveals an AppleTV SDK it’ll be the culmination of a long and persistent prediction path for me. Of course, rumors say that the new hardware won’t be forthcoming, but I kind of figured that would end up launching closer to August anyway. Makes more sense for them to launch a cable replacement service then anyway. And when there is still no SDK at the end of today’s announcements? Well, I will be sad but no longer surprised. I’ll take comfort in seeing a WatchOS SDK instead.

I do think we’ll hear about it though, as part of a focus on Home Kit. We won’t see any Apple branded Home Kit devices, but I’m sure we’ll see some boring third party products that do the same thing as every other smart home product. Yes, IFTT will let me have Hue light bulbs turn purple whenever the Lakers win. Like that’s been a frequent occurrence lately. I still haven’t bought a Nest, and that is the one Smart Home device that I can justify as both useful and attractive. I am holding off on this whole smart home movement in the hope of avoiding a box in my garage filled with ugly, bulky smart home plugs.

Apple Music? Sure, why not. Because there’s nothing like introducing a platform to developers that they can only consume and not integrate into. But hey, that means the possibility of an appearance by Taylor Swift is on the table. I fully expect that Google Music, Spotify, Amazon Music and Tidal will all end up being very similar services with a few really annoying exclusives as differentiators. Just like Amazon and Netflix now, 95% of the content will be completely duplicative so that you feel stupid paying for more than one.

Speaking of Netflix, if Apple is going full bore into streaming music, how long until they move into streaming video? Do they roll their own or do they buy Netflix?

Will we see new iPads? Nah, that’ll be part of the annual iOS device launch around September.

No, this year we’re looking at OS updates for iOS and Mac OS. Lots of stability improvements, a font swap from Helvetica Neue to San Francisco, and a lot of small changes to clear away things that annoy users. One thing that I think we’ll see is better notification integration between the different platforms. In other words, if I already saw the notification on my iPhone, I don’t need to see it on my iPad and Macbook too. I think there will be a lot of fixes in that vein that will smooth the customer experience rather than expanding it.

One thing I’d love to see but won’t? A single place to enter your username and password for your cable provider. This would be ideal for the current model where there are a plethora of apps on iOS and AppleTV that require the same cable credentials in order to work. Which is  patently absurd and stupid. But with Apple rolling out their own cable replacement later this year? Why improve the crappy model now? On a related note, I’ll really miss Comcast not at all.

I also expect a pretty big focus on improved Maps. Apple doesn’t like being the butt of jokes, and they know that they’ll have to have a Maps product that is exponentially better than the competition in order to overcome this particular blemish. Especially if they really are planning on releasing an AppleCar somewhere down the road.

All in all I expect a pretty low key event. So of course something magical is bound to be revealed.