Sunday, June 05, 2011

WWDC Predictions

                With Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference less than 24 hours away, I thought this was a good time to make some predictions about what will be announced.  We know the basics (OS X Lion, iOS 5, and iCloud), but nothing in the way of specifics yet.  I am going to make some predictions based on what I’ve read in the media and on prior Apple announcements relating to OS X Lion.


                This appears to be a more substantial upgrade then Snow Leopard (10.6) was.  Given the release of the Mac App Store and the pending iCloud announcement, I believe that Lion will have more of a focus on the online space.  This is likely the next iteration of the “Time Machine” concept that Apple introduced several years ago.   The specific manner in which Apple addresses online and the cloud is one of the biggest question marks this keynote will have.  Because I think this will be a bigger update to OS X, I would wager that the price of the OS will be closer to the $129 of Leopard than the $29 being charged for Snow Leopard.

Another area I feel needs to be addressed is in the area of security and malware protection.  As the ongoing issues with Mac Defender indicate, OS X is now being actively targeted by malware and viruses.  An interesting stat I heard today (courtesy of Leo Laporte on his “This Week in Tech” podcast) is that the number of people running OS X is roughly equal to the number of people running Windows without any sort of firewall, antivirus, or anti-spyware software on their machines.  For years, I have suggested that once the user base expands to a certain level, you would start seeing more and more exploits of OS X.  The current update system (where Apple Software Update only checks for updates once every 24 hours) needs to be changed, as the Mac Defender bypassed the most recent update within 8 hours of its release.


                Given Apple’s focus on all things iOS over the last year, this is going to be a very eagerly anticipated announcement for the Apple Developers in attendance.  Some people still believe that there will be an iPhone 5 announcement at WWDC, even though all indications have placed an announcement closer to the fall timeframe where Apple has normally announced new iPod products in the past.  I assume that the “Locationgate” issue will be addressed in a much more straightforward manner at WWDC, and there will probably be stronger measures across the board to protect user privacy in iOS 5.

                For me it’s hard to make any specific predictions on what iOS 5 will contain when we haven’t seen any new hardware yet.  Assuming that the next iPhone uses the same A5 chip that the iPad 2 uses, we’ll likely see a move towards graphic improvements.  There have been rumors of a higher resolution screen making its way into the next iPhone, which would make sense assuming that the A5 chip is included in the next generation iPhone.  However, the ongoing legal battles between Apple and Samsung could delay any such improvements from taking place.
                This is probably the worst kept secret in recent history for Apple.  Ever since news first broke regarding the construction of a huge data center in North Carolina, speculation has been rampant that Apple would introduce a cloud based service.  Ironically, immediately after the Apple press release formally announcing “iCloud”, the data center became available on Google Maps/Google Earth for the first time.
                There seems to be a lot of different theories on what iCloud may offer customers.  To me, the most logical option is to allow customers to have their iTunes music purchases backed up in the cloud.  Whether you would be able to redownload our purchases or simply have streaming access is up for debate.  Apple has leveraged Akamai’s technology for years for stream media via its Apple and Quick Time websites, so the infrastructure for streaming media is there.  Apple has also signed agreements with the four major record labels regarding cloud content, which is something Amazon will not do and Google doesn’t have to do (since you can only upload your music to the site, not purchase or stream anything from Google itself).

                Several rumors have centered around Apple offering the iCloud service for $25 or so a year after an initial trial period.  This could mean that Apple will offer iCloud customers the chance to listen to any track on their computer via the cloud, regardless of where they obtained the music from.  Before people start screaming about software piracy though, consider this:  this would not be uploading your music as you do with Google Music, but simply making a stream of Earth Wind and Fire’s “September” available in your account because iTunes sees the track on your computer.  Because you’d be paying this annual fee, the record companies would be collecting some royalties for allowing you to stream the song.  And that’s what the record industry is about – getting its money. 

                What’s not clear at this point is whether iCloud would also allow you to back up and/or store copies of purchased TV shows, movies, and iOS apps.  If the answer is yes, then Apple has probably just changed the rules on Google and Amazon once again.  Regardless of the specifics, the iCloud announcement will likely be the most anticipated part of Steve Jobs’ keynote by the public at large.

“One more thing…”

                A Steve Jobs keynote is not complete without his famous “one more thing…” at the end of each keynote.  This year, it could be anything under the sun.  My guess is that it will be something that people have either overlooked completely or have forgotten about in the Lion/iOS 5/iCloud buzz.  Perhaps more information on the future of OS X Server now that Apple has discontinued the XServe platform.  Or (more likely in my opinion) a massive update for Time Capsule/Time Machine to take advantage of the new cloud service.  The good news is that we only have to wait for about 16 hours to find out for sure.

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