What to expect at Apple's developer conference 2017

Decorations have been put up on the exterior of San Jose McEnery Convention Centre for Apple's upcoming Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2017.
Decorations have been put up on the exterior of San Jose McEnery Convention Centre for Apple's upcoming Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2017. ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

SAN JOSE - Apple will be holding its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) this year from June 5 to 9 (Pacific Time) at at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, instead of San Francisco, a departure from the norm.

It will be the first time since 2002 that Apple will be holding WWDC in San Jose, which is closer to the tech giant's home campus in Cupertino. It might be a step to bring next year's WWDC to the new Apple Park campus in the iPhone maker's headquarters.

So, what can we expect from WWDC this year? As a developer conference, we can definitely look forward to new software.

SOFTWARE

1. macOS 10.13 or 11?

Almost every year, Apple updates its macOS 10 (previously known as Mac OS X). So, we can expect an upgrade from the current 10.12 to 10.13.

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There are also rumours that Apple might change the naming convention to macOS 11, to bring both iOS and macOS to same numeric version.

But information about the new macOS is scarce. Still, we will probably see speed improvements, a smarter Siri voice assistant and better integration between iOS and macOS.

One probable development for macOS 10.13 is the implementation of the Apple File System (APFS). Optimised for flash drive storage, which is becoming more prevalent, APFS is said to offer stronger encryption, faster file movement, as well as better space efficiency and backup capabilities.

This will also bring masOS in line with iOS which was updated to APFS during the recent iOS 10.3 upgrade.

2. iOS 11

Again, iOS - the operating system for Apple's smartphones and tablets - is refreshed every year. Apple typically announces the new version in June at WWDC, and the new iOS will roll out in September when the new iPhones are launched.

Artificial intelligence (AI) seems to be the buzzword among tech giants like Google and Microsoft. Apple is no different.

Rumours are circulating that Apple is planning major updates to its voice assistant Siri, such that it becomes smarter through contextual learning with improved AI. Improvements in Siri will most likely be duplicated in the new macOS.

In addition, Apple might be adding group video chats in FaceTime and conference calls of up to five people in iMessage. Other additional features include a dark mode for better reading at night.

3. watchOS 4 and tvOS 11

With new macOS and iOS versions, there will likely be updates to watchOS for Apple Watch and tvOS for Apple TV.

The new watchOS 4 is expected to add more features for health tracking. Apple's chief executive Tim Cook is said to be testing a glucose level monitor on his Apple Watch, while Apple just recently bought sleep-tracking firm Beddit. So, we might see these features added into the new watchOS.

This writer personally hopes to see third-party watch faces, instead of just the few offered by Apple currently.

For tvOS 11, there is a high chance that there will be multiple user profile support, something like what you get with Netflix or HBO. So, you can have your own apps in a specific arrangement when you log in with your ID, while another user who logs in will have his own customised interface.

It is also rumoured that tvOS 11 might finally support Amazon Prime Video and Vudu streaming services.

HARDWARE

No hardware was announced for the previous two iterations of WWDC. But with the lack of a March Apple media event this year, we might just see some hardware announcements at WWDC.

1. New iPad Pro?

Well-connected and often-reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities said that there is a high chance that Apple will launch a 10.5-inch version of the iPad Pro.

This is an answer to complaints by users who think the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is too big but the 9.7-inch version is a tad too small.

2. New MacBook and MacBook Pro?

Last week, Apple registered at least five new models of the MacBook and MacBook Pro in the Eurasian Economic Commission, according to French website Consomac.

However, it is likely that these MacBooks and MacBook Pros will come with only an internal upgrade of Intel's latest Kaby Lake processors. The latest MacBook Pros were introduced only in October last year, so it's unlikely there will be any major change in design.

3. Siri Speaker

This is supposed to be the highlight of WWDC 2017. Again, rumours of the Siri Speaker came from KGI Securities' Mr Kuo. He said there is an over 50 per cent chance that Apple will announce its first AI product at WWDC.

Industry pundits have thus pointed to a Siri Speaker, that will compete directly with the likes of Amazon Echo and Google Home smart speakers. These smart speakers connect to a voice-controlled AI assistant that allows users to interact with it to play music, send e-mails, get real-time weather or traffic information, or simply have a conversation.

While Echo uses the Alexa voice assistant, the Siri Speaker - or whatever it might be called, maybe Apple Sound? - will, most certainly, use the Siri voice assistant.

The Siri Speaker is said to have better sound performance than its competitors, thanks to the use of Beats technology. In addition, it is rumoured to include face recognition, so Siri will know who it is talking to. It might also have a touchscreen panel like the recently announced Amazon Echo Show.

Both Amazon Echo and Google Home are currently not available, nor supported, in Singapore. So, hopefully, the Siri Speaker will be.

All will be revealed during Apple's keynote on June 5, 10am (June 6, 1am, Singapore time) that traditionally kicks start WWDC. To catch the keynote live, visit www.apple.com/apple-events/june-2017.