Expect new Apple hardware at its WWDC developer conference

What’s next?
What’s next?
Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the release of the iPhone, which helped cement Apple’s position as one of the most profitable and successful technology companies of all time. In recent years, some have criticized the company, which routinely generates between $40 billion and $80 billion in revenue each quarter, of not being able to break out beyond the iPhone. Newer products, including the Apple Watch, have not yet seen the explosive sales that the iPhone has. But many expect 2017 to be a bumper year for new Apple products to cap off its successful decade.

This week, from June 5-8, Apple will be hosting its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California. It’s a yearly convocation for engineers and others who develop Apple products to hear about the company’s latest software updates. In the past, the company has also used the event to unveil new hardware—in 2010, then-CEO Steve Jobs announced the iPhone 4; in 2013, Apple showed off new computers, laptops, and routers; and the scuttlebutt has it that this year’s conference will unveil a slew of new products.

The company has already refreshed its Mac Pro desktop and its diminutive iPhone SE, released a new 9.7-inch iPad this year, and likely has much more in the pipeline, even after WWDC. Analysts have referred to Apple’s product rollout plans this year as a “supercycle,” with a completely redesigned iPhone, and potentially even entirely new product lines being announced later in the year. (That being said, leaks supposedly from workers in Apple’s Chinese factories suggest that many of the company’s more ambitious projects may have been pushed back to next year or later.)

I’ll be in attendance for CEO Tim Cook’s keynote address on Monday, June 5, at 10am US Pacific Time, liveblogging the event, and tweeting from @mcwm. Here’s a quick rundown of what might be discussed during his speech:

A Siri speaker

It’s long been reported that Apple is working on a Siri-powered competitor to the Amazon Echo and Google Home. The device, which is expected to be able to control internet-connected devices, play music, and answer basic questions, may well be unveiled at Apple’s developer conference, Bloomberg reported last week. As Bloomberg points out, Apple’s services (sales of music, apps, and other digital offerings) make up the company’s second-largest business segment. Releasing a device that’s focused on piping in music and other Apple subscription services into customers’ living rooms and kitchens could help Apple realize Tim Cook’s aspiration to have its services business be as large as a Fortune 100 company.

Software, software, software

Apple’s developer conference is, unsurprisingly, traditionally focused on its developer community, so it’s safe to assume we’ll see updates to its main operating systems announced at WWDC. This will likely include iOS 11, the latest operating system for iPhones and iPads; the next version of macOS; and perhaps updates to its watchOS and tvOS operating systems for the Apple Watch and TV. Not much has leaked about the new operating systems, except a possible update to Apple Music to better incorporate video content and improved support for Apple’s stylus for the iPad, the Apple Pencil. Expect the majority of Monday’s keynote to be focused on software.

New computers

Apple is expected to update the processors in the MacBook and MacBook Pro to Intel’s newer, more efficient Kaby Lake processors, although not much else is expected to change in these new laptops, which received aesthetic overhauls in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The French Apple news site Consomac recently reported (link in French) uncovered regulatory filings for five new Mac devices in Russia, which suggest new models could be dropping soon. There’s also a chance Apple may also revive its long-forgotten MacBook Air line at WWDC, which hasn’t seen a significant update since 2015, and an outside chance Apple could update its iMac desktop computer too.

A new size iPad

It’s rumored that Apple plans to announce a new iPad Pro that will sit between the existing 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch Pro models. The new iPad Pro, according to 9to5Mac, would be roughly the same size and shape as the current 9.7-inch model, but will feature far more screen real estate in the same space, thanks to slimmed-down bezels. It’s unclear whether Apple’s larger iPad Pro will see a refresh, or what the fate of Apple’s smaller iPad Minis will be, considering a chunk of their market seems to have been cannibalized by the larger iPhone Plus models Apple has been releasing since 2014.

One more thing?

There could well be a few surprises in store. There are reports that Apple has been working on augmented-reality glasses for a while, and Cook has expressed his interest in the field multiple times—perhaps this year’s developer conference will be when Apple drops a new device, possibly first offering it to developers as Microsoft did with its HoloLens augmented-reality system.

Apple has also reportedly been working on new processors that could power artificial intelligence-related tasks on mobile devices. Cook has also said that AI will be one of the core technologies that “will be dominant in smartphones of the future,” so it’s possible we’ll start to see what this could mean for Apple beyond a sassy virtual assistant that still doesn’t do a great job of understanding you most of the time.

Or perhaps, after all these years, Apple will finally unveil a refresh of its Mac Mini desktop, which has seen one small upgrade in the last five years.