Apple CEO Tim Cook will unveil the latest versions of Apple’s software for iPhones, iPads, Mac, Watch and TV on Monday at the start of WWDC, Apple’s annual developer conference.
The new “bits,” as attendees often call the updates, are Apple’s biggest software announcement of the year and set the public strategy for Apple’s platform over the next 12 months. For example, iOS 16, as Apple is to call the new software for iPhones and iPads, could include improved notifications, a redesigned lock screen, and updates to the news and health apps, according to a Bloomberg News report.
However, Apple’s long-reported mixed reality headset is unlikely to make its debut next week.
WWDC, which stands for Worldwide Developers Conference and is nicknamed “Dub Dub,” is strategically important for Apple, even if the company isn’t announcing any new hardware.
Apple’s financial performance depends on support from third-party software developers, such as those participating in WWDC. Without a solid selection of updated, high-quality applications, the value of Apple’s platforms to consumers and users would likely decline, ultimately hurting sales. Apple also makes up to $20 billion a year from software sales on its App Store.
Software for Apple platforms, like iOS apps, typically use different tools or programming frameworks than other major platforms like Microsoft’s Windows, Google’s Android, or the web. Apple is getting programmers excited about these technologies with a hype-filled keynote at the start of the conference, a more technical presentation later in the day called “Platforms State of the Union,” and then a week of class-like sessions and one-on-ones. one meetings where developers can get feedback and guidance from Apple engineers.
The biggest difference this year for WWDC is that it will include an in-person component after being entirely virtual for two years. The change is subtle – the keynote presentation with new product announcements will continue to be pre-recorded, and developers around the world will still be able to attend sessions of the conference virtually.
But this year, Apple invited a few hundred software developers, members of the press, and students to its headquarters in Cupertino, California, to watch the video presentation, get tours of the campus, and speak in person with some of the people who created the software. It doesn’t compare to the 6,000 attendees who traveled to San Jose for WWDC before the pandemic, but it’s another sign that things are returning to normal after two years of virtual product announcements. Apple employees had to start returning to the office this spring after working mostly from home for nearly two years during the Covid pandemic.
Conducting WWDC in person this month sets the stage for a fall launch where Apple will show off new phones and maybe even a high-end mixed reality headset to a live audience for instant hands-on feedback from the press and partners. Just like old times.
New software is coming
Apple sometimes unveils new hardware at WWDC, but the products are typically expensive, powerful, and aimed at programmers — typically Macs needed to build apps for the iPhone.
The last time Apple announced hardware products at WWDC was in 2019, when it released the $6,000 Mac Pro and a $5,000 monitor. Previously, 2017 updates were announced for Mac desktops and laptops.
Apple could unveil the successor to the M1 processor at WWDC. At a product launch event, it was previously teased that a high-end model called the Mac Pro with a chip developed by Apple was forthcoming. The “M2,” as it might be called, would be the next-gen Mac processor and could be available in a redesigned MacBook Air, according to Bloomberg.
At the very least, discussing advances in Apple’s processors would fit in well with the developer-centric conference. Apple originally announced the switch to its own processors at WWDC in 2020.
Apple’s next big product category, augmented or mixed reality hardware, is unlikely to make an appearance.
Apple may be talking about new apps and software that lay the groundwork for a mixed reality headset or augmented reality glasses, and frequently announces updates to its augmented reality development software, ARKit, at WWDC. (Augmented reality displays computer-generated imagery on transparent lenses that allow users to see the real world, while mixed reality is a fully immersive experience like virtual reality, but with external cameras showing images of the real world outside.)
But new product categories usually get their own launch events rather than being slammed into WWDC, and the headset has reportedly not entered mass production yet.
Major software updates are a better choice. For the past several years, Apple has announced the new version of its iOS software at WWDC in June, released a public beta for early adopters and testers later in the month, and then released the final version of the software alongside new iPhones in September.
While the iPhone has the most users and the most important app store, updates to Apple’s other software platforms, including the iPad, Watch and TV, often get just as much attention at WWDC.
iPads in particular could see some big changes. iPadOS 16 could reportedly include the ability to resize windows, which would make the device more appealing to power users who enjoy multitasking. Currently users can run two apps side by side, but the ability to adjust floating windows would make it more like macOS.
According to Bloomberg, Apple’s Apple TV set-top box could get an update that would make it more useful as the centerpiece of a smart home. The Apple Watch got new hardware last year with a physically larger screen, and its software is due for an update that includes new watch faces to take advantage of the larger screen.
One Apple product that’s set to garner a lot of attention next week is Swift, the company’s open-source programming language, which launched in 2014. Invitations to developers and media included a graphic with a large Swift logo and one of the taglines for the conference is “swiftly approaching.”