Apple WWDC 2012: What to Expect
Rumors are rampant about what Apple will announce at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference. We cut through the muck to give you what we think (hope) will be coming.
Since Apple pulled out of MacWorld Expo in 2009, the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) has by default become the annual Apple event of the year. This, of course, doesn’t include ad hoc special events that float free like the annual music or mobile announcements. With WWDC kicking off on Monday, there’s a healthy amount of speculation surrounding this event, and we’re here to tell you what we’re looking forward to seeing at WWDC.
Hardware is certainly the backbone of Apple Inc., even after the company took the word “computer” out of its name. The entire Macintosh line is likely to be updated, so here’s a rundown of many of the hot button issues for the Mac and more.
MacBook Pro Line:
Apple’s flagship laptop is the prime candidate for update. New Ivy Bridge processors (aka third-generation Intel Core) can slot into the same motherboards as the previous Sandy Bridge (second-generation Intel Core) CPUs. Updated MacBook Pros would get better performance, be quieter (lower heat hence, less fan noise), and possibly have better battery life. While not necessarily a high priority for most Mac users, the upgrade to integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 with its DX11-compatible 3D graphics would be a welcome addition to the 13-inch MacBook Pro. USB 3.0 is a no-brainer, but don’t look for a Blu-ray SuperDrive, that ship has passed. Because of the expense involved in re-tooling the mills for the one-piece chassis, we don’t think that the thinner, optical drive-less MacBook Pro is going to appear this year. Serious users will still need the much-maligned optical drive for now, and some businesses will still want to buy DVD-based versions of products like Adobe Creative Suite 6, since high-speed Internet has a tendency to be unavailable when you absolutely need it. Besides, that’s how people visually differentiate the MacBook Pro line from the MacBook Air.
MacBook Air Line: The laptop that’s an ultrabook in all but name is due for an Ivy Bridge upgrade as well. The last major change to the MacBook Air (and MacBook Pro) was the upgrade from mini DisplayPort to Thunderbolt. A 128GB SSD and 4GB of memory as a standard base config is a likely upgrade as well. It would behoove Apple to update the internals at the same time as the MacBook Pro, with the same sort of chip swap and feature bumps. Like the MacBook Pro, a change in chassis is unlikely.
iMac, Mac mini:
The desktops are in good shape as well, but they are also due for an Ivy Bridge upgrade. An SSD-only Mac Mini would be a great school-oriented system for home or the classroom. An iMac that’s capable of being pre-configured with 32-64GB of memory would be welcome in case the next prediction about the Mac Pro doesn’t come to pass. Like the MacBook Air and Pro, the desktops are due for USB 3.0.
New Mac Pro:
The last Mac Pro came out in 2010. It has been marching along since then, but it’s not Thunderbolt-compatible out of the box. High-end users will certainly welcome the addition of USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt for those huge files they work on and pass around. An Ivy Bridge-based Xeon E3 or E5 will help those poor users who needed to get their job done five minutes ago. People have stated that the iMac is as powerful as the low-end Mac Pro, but even those users who think the iMac is fast enough will still agree that there is a need for the four internal drive bays and PCIe expansion in the Mac Pro. Whether the Mac Pro line is profitable enough to continue on is up to Apple and its accountants.
Yup, this is the place to announce iOS 6. Apple has done it before in this venue, it’ll do it again. Siri on new iPad is likely, while Siri support for older devices is a 50/50 proposition. Naturally, plenty of enhancements are expected, including new maps.
Mac OS Mountain Lion (AKA 10.8):
Yeah, it’ll happen, and we’ll finally get a release date. There will be workshops at the show for porting apps over, and there will be more iOS-like features announced.
Retina Displays Everywhere:
Pundits have been predicting retina-searing 300+dpi displays for the iMac, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air. We can see Apple making Retina display a high-end, 15-inch or 17-inch MacBook Pro option, but it won’t be everywhere. It will be cost prohibitive for the $1,199 iMac and $999 MacBook Air configurations, plus general users won’t need that level of detail. Maybe a high-end 21.5- or 27-inch iMac with Retina display would make sense for people who make their living in the visual arts, but imagine the size of those files. You’d need a 4TB drive (or two) to be standard in that case.
New iPhone 5: No.
New 7-inch iPad: Really? No.
New iPod anything: Nope. Wait for the inevitable music event in September.
Apple TV: It’s up to date and still a hobby. Apple could offer HBO GO or other streaming services, but that’s just a software update away.
Integrated Apple TV: No. Next question, please.
Integrated Apple TV with a partner like Sony: No. Apple likes to control every aspect of its products, from hardware to software to services. This scenario would only make sense if Apple comes out with its own branded TVs. See question above.
One More Thing: Your guess is as good as mine.
There you have it. If I addressed every point of speculation, this article would be 4,000 words long. As it is, this is a lot to think about and be excited about. Apple keynotes are always fun to follow live; there’s always an update from the retail stores, several software demos, and lovingly designed commercials shown at these events.
We plan on being your eyes and ears at the WWDC keynote on Monday. Live video feeds during the event are highly unlikely, and Apple would’ve announced such a feed by now. But I will be there, along with mobile analyst Sascha Segan, so follow us on Twitter (@saschasegan and @joelsd) and tune in to PCMag’s live blog, which will kick off at 12:30 p.m. Eastern/9:30 a.m. Pacific in advance of the 1 p.m. press conference.
Until then, be sure to vote in PCMag’s poll about what you most want to see at WWDC.
By Joel Santo Domingo, PCMag