WWDC 2013: What We Think Makes Sense
Unripe Fruit: What we don’t want to see
Things that would be weird to release without a major OS update: Apple’s music streaming service
Apple is expected to release their music streaming service next week — a strange announcement for a developer conference, and a strange announcement for the middle of a product cycle. It makes more sense for the streaming service launch to be a flagship feature of iOS 7 than to get released as a point-update to iOS 6 or as a stand-alone app. Our guess is that iRadio is a stand-alone app on iOS and a new feature in iTunes on OS X — maybe the only feature added to iTunes in the past five years that actually fits.
Things with limited actual benefit: UIKit for OS X
Allowing iOS apps to be ported directly to Mac seems like a good way to recreate the experience of the current dev tools simulator. iOS games that are ported to Mac already have issues with poor user experience due to the low quality porting done to bring them to the Mac. Making it easier for developers to port from one to the other would be nice, but a UIKit compatibility layer has all sorts of implications for low quality end products.
Things that just aren’t going to happen no matter how much you want them to: Apple TV SDK
A new way of interacting with the Apple TV is a necessary prerequisite to real Apple TV apps. It would be great for Apple to sell subscription-based “apps” that give users access to custom Apple TV channels from HBO, etc., but those custom channels, if they do someday exist, won’t be full apps. That would be an innovative way for Apple to get content providers to provide support for the Apple TV, but the prospect of paying 30% of subscription revenue to Apple probably can’t compete with a cable monopoly in the lizard-brains of network executives.
If you want to see the Apple TV SDK that Apple has, but hasn’t felt the need to make public, look no further than Matt Thompson’s excellent write up on Back Row, the internal SDK for Apple TV.
Things that don’t fit into the hardware release schedule and may not even exist: Low-cost iPhone
Jony Ive would never appear alongside a device primarily created out of an inferior material such as plastic.
Things that would be incredibly useful but just aren’t Apple’s bag: A custom web backend as part of iCloud a la Windows Azure
This might be controversial, but we don’t see Apple adding features like Parse, Deployd or Windows Azure to iCloud, as nice as they are. We hope they improve all sorts of things about iCloud, but we just don’t think adding developer-customizable server-side components is within Apple’s comfort zone.
Things that you don’t need to show to your competitors three months before launch: New UI Chrome for iOS 7
Showing off a new UI three months before it ships doesn’t fit Apple’s normal way of showing off their products, but the reportedly extensive UI changes planned for iOS 7 might be an exception. The changes will get revealed eventually in the developer betas — Apple can’t save all the UI changes for the iOS 7 release candidate, which generally coincides with their official hardware announcement. So some of the UI overhaul will be on display at WWDC, but expect to see more changes as the release gets closer. How much gets revealed at WWDC may be a test of how much Apple cares about a) increasing pre-release excitement for iOS 7 and b) Apple’s stock price over the next few months. And no matter how nice iOS 7 looks, pleased don’t install the first beta on your phone while 2000 miles from home.
✍ Ben: I did that once in the days of my youth… and lost the ability to receive voicemails for the balance of WWDC + traveling back home.
Things that we know will be released in the fall: The next normal-cost iPhone
Ready for Pickin’: What we want to see
Things that would be appropriate for a developer conference: New Mac Pro
Made in teh [sic] USA baby! An announcement regarding a radically new Mac Pro would definitely garner some positive press amidst low level negative coverage about the e-books lawsuit and congressional testimony on Apple’s tax avoidance schema.
Things Ben would like to buy: An updated Retina 13-inch Macbook Pro with Intel’s new Haswell processor
The update to Haswell will be great across the board for integrated GPU performance; that performance matters most in the 13-inch Macbook Pro, which is missing a dedicated GPU and a four-core Intel chip. If the rumors of an updated, slimmer form factor are accurate, this will be a sickeningly beautiful and fast Mac.
Things that build on iOS’s core features: Incremental API improvements that expand Apple’s strongest APIs
Expanded access to features from the iOS 6 Maps App via MapKit, SceneKit on iOS — here’s a nice Open Radar regarding SceneKit’s potential benefits — and more applications and flexibility for Passbook are three areas where iOS could expand existing Apple APIs to provide developers with more powerful tools.
Things that Apple actually needs to catch up on when compared to Android and Windows Phone: Expanded inter-app communication, hopefully via the UIActivity framework
Apart from iCloud Core Data, this may be the biggest missing functionality in the Cocoa Touch framework. We hope it gets strong enough to compete with Windows 8’s Contracts before Windows phones start [Windows phone market share joke removed out of empathy]. More robust inter-app communication in iOS will strengthen the network effect within the App Store ecosystem, and that’s a strong reason for iOS’s perceived dominance among developers. The shortcomings of iOS in this arena are a limitation that many users run up against on a frequent basis — at least, we do.