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WWDC 2017 Predictions

WWDC 2017 is upon us and now that my blog is finally operational I can easily publicly reveal my WWDC predictions so I can either be ridiculed or "I told you so".

WWDC 2017 has the potential to be as unexpected as WWDC 2013 when iOS 7 was unveiled. It is the iPhone's 10th anniversary and while Apple hasn't shown to care that much about milestones the rumor mill has been in full swing. There has been talk about a significant UI overhaul to multiple types of new hardware. However, explicit details have been sparse so at this point in time Apple could announce any number of things to shock me.

I'm going to break down my predictions into three categories: likely, unlikely and batshit crazy.

Likely

1. New developer hardware

A lot of Mac hardware is reaching the end of its lifecycle so I am quite confident that we are going to see a couple Mac hardware announcements. Updated 15" MacBook Pros are almost a certainty but I wouldn't put it past Apple to also announce some new iMacs or even smaller sized MacBooks.

Apple almost never announces hardware at WWDC but I think that Apple's fall is going to be full of a number of other hardware launches that they either will do it at WWDC or through a press release sometime between now and September. Or who knows maybe Apple will go back to two consumer focused events in the fall.

2. Improved Siri API

Apple exposed Siri to developers last year but it was only for a certain category of apps. I think this year not only is SiriKit's API going to be greatly expanded but the restriction on the type of apps that can support it will be relaxed. With the supposed release of an Apple competitor to Amazon Echo and Google Home, Apple is probably going to be looking for developers to support the product and a great way to do that would be getting them comfortable with SiriKit now.

3. Slightly revamped UI

I think newer Apple apps like Music, TV and even the recently updated WWDC app hint at new designs being tested out inside Apple, for example, the way the "now playing screen" of the music app works. i.e. how it is swiped into view or out of view. I suspect Apple is going to give a polish pass on the entire UI of iOS and hopefully expose some of these new view controller transitions via new developer APIs.

I don't think it is going to be as drastic as iOS 7 was but there could finally be a cohesive design language across all of Apple's iOS apps, which is something we haven't seen for a very long time.

4. Multiple user accounts

This has been a rumor for a couple of years now but I think this is the year Apple releases multiple user accounts for iPad. iPads are more likely to be the primary tablet for multiple people, such as an entire family, and the ability for each family member to have their own apps and data is not to be underestimated. I don't see a big reason for multiple user accounts on iPhone so it wouldn't surprise me if Apple limited this to iPads to start.

5. Dark mode and/or more customization

This is another rumor that has been picking up steam for a couple years so it feels like a plausible release for a revamped iOS UI. It could be as simple as a dark mode that developers can react to changes off and simply flip their colour palette or go a bit beyond that. It will be interesting to see what sort of flexibility Apple gives both users and developers in this regard.

6. Improved iMessage apps

I was going to write something more generic like "improved/additional extensions" but the more I thought about it the more I kept coming back to "iMessage apps need to be more powerful". Right now iMessage apps are basically just glorified sticker packs. Since they were just introduced last year I assume Apple has been looking at their usage rates and is not pleased. Giving them more capabilities and making them easier to download (maybe allow them to be streamed) could help make iMessage apps more ubiquitous.

Unlikely

1. New iPads

iPads are still consumer devices and Apple reveals this type of hardware at public oriented events, typically alongside iPhones. I am putting this in the "unlikely" category because the iPad Pros are past the end of their lifecycle and it is possible Apple could announce new iPad Pros alongside some new developer APIs for "pro" focused iPad apps.

2. Shared replacement of UIKit and AppKit

Last year I would have put this one down as batshit crazy but I suspect are we going to see a WWDC where the iPad attempts to come out of its shell as a bigger iPhone focused on consumption and becomes a tablet that can create most of the things you currently need a laptop for. If this happens I can see a lot of these "pro" apps needing to exist on both iPad and laptop and a single UI framework for that would make all developers lives easier.

This will happen eventually the only question at this point is when? Maybe build in it Swift when it becomes ABI stable? Who knows.

3. MacPro reveal

I would love to see some more information on the new MacPro but I suspect Apple themselves is not confident enough about it yet to show it. We will probably get an unveiling at WWDC 2018 with a release in the summer.

4. YouTube TV competitor

I have absolutely no idea what Apple is going to announce for the Apple TV this year with the small exception of an Amazon Instant Video app. I am hoping that they will finally get off their asses and announce some sort of decent TV app that allows you to pay directly for the ability to stream, like YouTube TV does, and not require you have a subscription with those horrible cable providers.

Batshit Crazy

1. iPhone 7s/8 reveal

I can't believe this needs saying but Apple is going to announce and release their new iPhones in September. WWDC is a developer event and they save iPhone and iPad hardware reveals for events that are targeted at the general public. Without a doubt we could get some new developer APIs that conspiracy theorists could use to hypothesize upcoming features but Apple keeps these really close to the chest and most likely won't release them until after the new iPhone is announced. This brings me to my next batshit crazy prediction...

2. Anything to do with augmented or virtual reality

If Apple is going to do something with augmented reality (AR) it will most likely be tied to some hardware improvements and so we are not going to see any mention of it at this WWDC. If the iPhone 7s/8 supports AR in some form we will get some developer APIs exposed only after the new iPhone is announced in September. Perhaps we could see improvements to SceneKit this WWDC as a prelude to AR but that is like trying to read tea leaves.

3. Amazon Echo and Google Home competitor

I feel like I am a broken record but Apple is not going to unveil a brand new consumer focused product at a developer event. I suspect there will be some heavy hints about this product with some of the APIs that are released (particularly around SiriKit) but there is no way brand new hardware is announced at WWDC.

4. Setting default apps

Every year someone talks about how they wish they could configure Google Maps to be their default maps app and every year I have to explain how it can only hurt Apple to allow users to customize like this. Being the default apps drives a lot of traffic to Apple and no matter how much it would benefit their users it would do much more damage to Apple. Universal Links are Apple's "meet halfway" solution so apps can easily reference each other and if someone wants to put in the work to allow their app to open another app (like Google Maps) Apple will let them.

macOS 10.13 will be called Rancho Cucamonga

Hey it isn't likely but it would be amazing.

#WWDC

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