WWDC 2014 preview: Apple's interest in home, health & headphones
Apple has been relatively quiet since late last year, and the company is expected to break the silence with a bang by unveiling a slew of new initiatives at this year's edition of its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. AppleInsider takes a look at what could be in the cards when Tim Cook takes the stage on Monday.
WWDC 14 kicks off on Monday with a keynote address helmed by Apple CEO Tim Cook at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern. You can follow along with AppleInsider's live coverage from the keynote auditorium, and we will continue to report from the Moscone Center throughout the week as the conference unfolds.
What we'll probably see
Though it's only seven years old, iOS has arguably become Apple's most important product thanks to the runaway success of the iPhone and iPad. The OS X-derived mobile operating system received a radical visual overhaul in iOS 7, and iOS 8 is likely to continue refinements to the user interface while introducing a few new tentpole features.
Chief among those new features is thought to be a centralized repository for collating and displaying personal health and fitness data from the already-vast and constantly growing array of iOS-compatible "quantified self" devices, which may be dubbed "Healthbook." The app — and an accompanying framework likely called "HealthKit" — would let developers focus on hardware and firmware development rather than worrying about how to get their data into users' hands.
Apple's divisive Maps service is also likely to see stage time and is believed to have benefitted from a major push to improve both data accuracy and usefulness. In addition to beefing up the data backend with enhanced point-of-interest data, the next version of Maps is thought to leverage Apple's HopStop and Embark acquisitions to integrate public transit information directly into the service. This would allow users to get directions involving trains or bus service without using third-party apps as they do now.
Also rumored to be on the docket is a new, iOS-based push into home automation. Initial reports suggested that it would involve an Apple-designed abstraction layer for existing products — similar to the Healthbook rumors — but it's now believed that it will instead constitute an expansion of the existing Made for iPhone licensing program that certifies third-party products for quality and iOS compatibility.
Finally, Apple is rumored to provide third-party developers with a way to access Siri. That could be demonstrated with the introduction of a new, Shazam-powered song identification function to the personal digital assistant.
Mac OS X 10.10
Little is known about the next version of Mac OS X, with the Apple rumor mill largely focusing its attention on iOS 8. Most speculation centers on the venerable desktop operating system's name, though banners appearing at WWDC seem to have settled that debate in favor of "OS X Yosemite," after the California national park.
Apple is thought to have devoted much of its attention to the user interface, with OS X 10.10 believed to be on the receiving end of a visual refresh similar to the one iOS received under new design czar Jony Ive. The iCloud versions of Apple's iWork suite are likely representative of the direction Ive will take the Mac desktop, though it's possible the changes will be more subtle.
Having just closed a controversial $3 billion acquisition of Beats, Apple may provide a look at its plans for the popular headphone and speaker lineup. The company has been quick to point out that the deal was made primarily to get Beats's fledgling streaming service as well as cofounders Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, but the hardware business is worth more than $1 billion per year and will live on under the leadership of marketing chief Phil Schiller.
Apple is also though to be preparing to launch a new, less-costly iMac in the near future. However, recent leaks from Cupertino have suggested the iMac refresh won't see the light of day at WWDC, and presumably will debut later in the year.
What we probably won't see
Some of the more fanciful changes for iOS 8, like split-screen multitasking on the iPad or a new iOS-based mobile payments system, are said to be unlikely to see the light of day next week.
Two long-awaited products that are expected to finally hit shelves later this year — a revamped Apple TV and the new "iWatch" — are also likely to be kept in Apple's pocket. They might debut alongside the next-generation iPhone or iPad, both of which will probably remain unseen until this fall.