WWDC 2012: Where There's Smoke...

The weeks leading up to Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference are always full of rumors about what they’re going to announce. This year the rumors are circulating, but things have been just a little muted heading into the keynote, which is just ten days away.

I don’t doubt that this has a good deal to do with Tim Cook’s response to Walt Mossberg asking about Apple’s secrecy at the AllThingsD D10 Conference last week:

Cook replied that “we’re going to double down on secrecy on products.” That was said with a bit of a smile on his face, it should be noted, but he was clear that it’s something he’s serious about. On that same note, however, Cook said that Apple would be “super transparent” when it comes to other things, like its work with suppliers and environmental issues.

Apple has made and continues to make amazing, game-changing products and they understandably want to be in control of when and how those products are revealed. To be sure, Apple doesn’t really care if you or I know about these products ahead of time. But they care very much whether Google and Samsung know.

So what’s the scuttlebutt this time around?

Some of the things I’ve seen on the Internetz include some new user interface designs for iOS 6. Specifically that the new iOS will have an updated, silver intererface in native apps. This seems to be backed up by the design in the 2012 WWDC app (which you’ll have to do an image search for, because I can’t access the app due to not having a ticket to WWDC…) and by some circulating screen shots of the new maps app.

And the new Maps.app is a rumor in and of itself. Apple is further distancing itself from Google by doing away with Google Maps as the data on the backend of the app. I see two good reasons for this. One, Apple does not like to be dependent on a third party for major functionality in its apps, especially a third party that is so clearly a direct rival. Second, Apple has been collecting and aggregating traffic data over the past year or two in order to upgrade the Maps.app with better traffic and directions functionality. If those features are ready to go with iOS 6 this is a good time to make the change. It may even be that the Google maps data isn’t compatible with the new features.

Then there are the 50/50 rumors. These are ones that I really don’t know whether or not they will happen, or they might happen but probably not at WWDC:

New iPhone with different aspect ratio screen. This one may be legit, but I kind of doubt they’ll debut it at WWDC. I think it’s more likely to be shown in the fall about a month before the new iPhone goes on sale. I have seen the argument that developers will need to see the different aspect ratio in XCode early, but I think Apple can probably get around that with their standard non-disclosure agreements.

Facebook integration in iOS. Eh. I could see this happening. Whatever.

Siri updates. I’ll care more about Siri once I have an iPhone that runs Siri.

New iPhone, iPad dock connectors. This one may be a bit of an inconvenience for a while. It is really nice to just grab one of the 5,387,641 iPhone/iPad cables in the house and plug in. But if a smaller connector means more room in the device for battery and camera then it’ll be good in the long run.

Then there is the big one… The television. Will there be a television? Will there just be a new Apple Tv? If there is a new Apple Tv with an updated OS (Pretty please can we have apps?) at $99, I’ll definitely get one. I have the Apple Tv 2 and I’d really like to move up to 1080. If there is a new television device, I probably won’t get one this year (I’ve got to save up for two new iPhones this year) but I am definitely interested to see how Apple does this. I agree that a Apple Tv integrated in a standard television is not a very intriguing product. I certainly wouldn’t be in the market for that and I don’t think Apple would waste resources on that.

My hope is that an Apple television does to television and video content what the iPhone has done to mobile phones and web content: turn it on its ear and make it more accessible. I think that if, if, Apple does come out with a television product it will be significantly different from our current television experience in some key way that most of us, including myself, simply can’t think of yet. It will end up being obvious in retrospect, but I can’t reason out what it could be. Just as with the iPhone and the completely touch-based interface, we will look at the progress of television industry as either before the Apple television or after the Apple television.

This is the one aspect of the WWDC rumor mill that hasn’t been so quiet this year. And that much smoke starts one thinking that there is, in fact, some fire to this. I give the likelihood of Tim Cook announcing something in the television space other than just an updated Apple Tv box a 75-80% probability.

We find out Wednesday Monday, June 11.

Some relevant links:

Tim Cook at the D Conference: Between the Lines

Beneath contempt: The Apple TV business model

5 Things About Television

Apple to demo new TV OS at WWDC in two weeks

Apple stores busy with secretive activity ahead of WWDC keynote