By Jim Karpen on Fri, 05/30/2014
Apple's stock continues to jump up, and there's a tremendous amount of enthusiasm as everyone looks ahead to Apple's keynote on Monday at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Stock analysts and fanboys have been wondering if Apple still has its mojo in the post-Steve-Jobs era, and CEO Tim Cook has continued to promise that new product categories are coming. Everyone seems to be anticipating we will indeed get something new on Monday—if not hardware, then almost certainly a new platform or two. Let's take a look at what we know is coming, what seems likely, and what's rumored.
Apple to Introduce iOS 8
The whole point of the event is to whip up enthusiasm among developers to create software for the iOS and Mac platforms—and to offer sessions in which they're actually shown how to do specific things. So we know Apple will introduce iOS 8 and Mac OS 10.10. Some pretty solid rumors—including screenshots—have given good evidence for new features of iOS 8.
Healthbook — A chief new feature of iOS 8 is expected to be a new health-and-fitness app called Healthbook. Rumors and a screen shot, if authentic, suggest the app will let you track blood work, heart rate, hydration, blood pressure, physical activity, nutrition, blood sugar, sleep, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and weight. The fitness feature will likely be similar to other fitness-tracking apps that record information such as how far you've walked and how many calories you burned. The weight feature will probably let you track body mass index and body fat percentage. The nutrition feature is expected to let you record the food you eat and help you maintain a diet. In a sense, this is a new platform, in that some of the features will require external accessories to be attached to the iPhone. This new platform will likely work across not only iOS devices but also future wearables from Apple, such as the rumored iWatch.
Maps — Apple is expected to roll out a greatly improved version of its Maps app. Apple has purchased a number of map-related companies with technologies that will help make this new version more robust and feature rich. It's expected to have improved data and to also feature public transit directions. In addition to train, subway, and bus information, the app will include improved directions to major airports.
iTunes Radio — For months it's been rumored that iTunes Radio will be a standalone app in iOS 8. Apple's recent purchase of Beats seems to confirm that Apple has something in mind regarding its streaming music service. I wouldn't be surprised to see Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine on stage at some point. There have also been rumors that Apple will add the music-discovery service Shazam to iOS 8.
Preview and TextEdit apps — One rumor, based on a leaked screenshot, suggested that iOS 8 would have two new apps, Preview and TextEdit. But according to the rumor, their functionality would be limited to viewing files in iCloud that have been created in the corresponding apps on the Mac. There's also a rumored Tips app.
Split-screen multitasking — A number of rumors have said that iOS 8 will allow you to use two apps simultaneously side by side on an iPad. This is already possible with Android, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Apple bring it to iOS 8. However, most recently a rumor passed along by a writer for the New York Times said that it won't be ready in time to introduce at WWDC but would still be part of iOS 8 when it's released in the fall.
Rumors of New Smart Home Platform
One of the hottest rumors to surface in recent days was the report that Apple will introduce a new smart home platform on Monday. This is big. The so-called Internet of things is big—devices such as toilets and refrigerators that are now connected to the Internet. You can already buy a range of products that you control with your iOS device, from light bulbs to thermostats to home security systems. But they all work in different ways and aren't always easy to set up. Apple's vision is apparently to create a common platform for all these gadgets so they're intuitive to use and easy to set up. Think of how easy it is to set up Apple TV via Apple's iBeacons technology: you simply tap the Apple TV with your iOS device. iBeacons may be a central facet of this platform.
Apple is known for creating a platform that "just works." Their devices and computers and apps and cloud all work together seamlessly. It's exciting to think about how that ecosystem would expand with the smart home platform. Apple wouldn't likely themselves make the accessories, but would create tools for developers and then simply certify the accessories as being compatible with their smart home platform. And they're expected to sell many of these accessories in their Apple Stores.
The Mac and OS 10.10
Apple will introduce OS 10.10 Monday, with most people expecting it to feature the same sort of major overhaul that we saw in iOS 7, including some of the same design touches. It's also rumored they'll introduce a new iMac.
Watch the WWDC keynote via live streaming
I'm betting that the biggest news of the event will be Apple's new focus on health and fitness, and their new smart home platform. But we won't know for sure on any of this until Monday. Fortunately, you'll be able to get the news as it happens, since Apple will again be live streaming the keynote. Our blogger Todd Bernhard explains how to watch it in this post.