WWDC 2011 Expectations: Apple’s Cloudy Future

By James Mowery

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Apple’s 2008 Worldwide Developer Conference brought us the App Store. In 2009, we got the iPhone 3GS. In 2010, Steve Jobs revealed the iPhone 4. What will 2011 bring us?

For years, WWDC has been the platform that Apple exploits to present the world with incredible products that make the entire tech industry tremble with fear. But this WWDC might be a little bit more reserved, if rumors are to be believed.

In other words…

There’s Some Bad News

The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple stated that new hardware is a no-go this WWDC:

Apple closed the door this morning on any speculation that it would announce new hardware at its Worldwide Developers conference saying it would focus on iOS and Mac OS.

Apple’s apparent focus on software in its WWDC announcement backs up what my own sources are saying about the annual conference. That is, expect a software show in 2011, not a hardware event.

In other words, “you ain’t gettin’ new hardware this WWDC!

Depressing, isn’t it?

This actually comes as a surprise. The iPhone 5 was expected to be announced at WWDC 2011, as details have leaked about the new iPhone. There have also been discussions about production of the iPhone 5 already taking place. But it isn’t meant to be, allegedly.

(One could also assume that many who were interested in the Verizon iPhone 4 decided to hold off because of the chatter taking place of the new iPhone 5, which might have cost Apple some money in the end).

Unfortunately, the news that Apple isn’t planning on announcing the iPhone 5 disrupts everything that us tech journalists have come to expect from WWDC, unless The Loop’s sources are wrong or Apple is planning on surprising everyone at the event. Still, the overall consensus seems to be that new hardware isn’t coming.

That’s the bad news. But there is some good news.

Mac OS X Lion

Mac OS X Lion is expected to be released. There is high hopes that it will sink its teeth into the previous versions of Mac OS X. That’s good, because it looks like it will succeed.

I previously discussed what users can expect to see with Lion:

  • new iOS-inspired styling,
  • Launchpad
  • Versions
  • Resume
  • applications sandboxing
  • new gestures
  • full-screen support
  • new Finder

The above is known to be coming to the latest operating system upgrade, but there might be a few other new things coming that haven’t been announced. We have more in-depth coverage on Mac OS X Lion for your viewing pleasure.

iOS 5

Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, might also be announced at WWDC. However, rumors are already suggesting that iOS 5 will be delayed along with the iPhone 5.

If iOS 5 does make an appearance at WWDC, rumors have been circulating that the newest mobile operating system will have deep integration with cloud services. What cloud services, you ask? Well, Apple has been investing heavily in data centers. As a result, there is an expectation that Apple is moving some key components of iOS to the Web. (More on this later.)

There are also rumors that Apple will be taking full advantage of Siri, a product acquired by Apple that enables users to perform complex actions with voice commands. The expectation is that iOS will integrate this service extensively.

As for what else we should expect, I wouldn’t be shocked to see more in-house applications being developed to compete in the productivity/office arena with Google and Microsoft. It’s also likely that we will see some tweaks to help further synchronize the iPad and iPhone together. And, of course, there will be improvements to the core operating system; what those improvements will be, however, are unknown at this point.

So, while Lion is pretty much a sure thing for WWDC 2011, iOS 5 is a coin flip — rumors are circulating that iOS 5 will be announced with the iPhone 5 in the fall, but nothing is certain at this point. Only Apple knows.

I do, however, have a few expectations of my own.

Music Streaming/Storage

For one, I believe that Apple is going to announce a music streaming and/or storage service at WWDC 2011.

Why? Well, the first reason has only recently came to my attention: Amazon now has its foot in this arena with Cloud Drive and Cloud Player. Amazon Cloud Player allows users to upload 5GB of music for free, store it in the cloud, and stream it to any desktop or Android-compatible device. And after some alone time with the service, I’m impressed with what it offers.

Coincidentally, I believe that Apple has to respond with something of their own. Perhaps the company has been planning a music streaming service in the future, and maybe they do or do not have the deals in place to make that happen, but I am confident that they, at the very least, have a music locker/storage service already being developed. This service would allow users to purchase music from iTunes, store it in the cloud, and stream it to supporting iOS devices.

The other reason: it is just time that this happens already. Apple has been investing in cloud storage and data centers, so why not make this the year that music makes its way to the cloud? After all, when considering that Amazon has done it first and Google is planning on doing it, it sounds like the perfect time for Apple to take its chance.

And what about a music streaming service? Well, I think Apple will wait until its core music business, selling digital music, is in danger or costing them money before they would make such a change. However, I have no doubt in my mind that Apple has such a service planned for when it does happen.

Cloud Services

Then there is the potential for Apple to announce other new cloud services. What these services will be is, again, unknown, but it is almost a given that Apple has set the bar high for taking its future to the cloud.

This could mean that Apple is planning to slowly transition some of its core iOS components to the cloud. Maybe future mobile Apps will run entirely in the cloud. Maybe there will be a new Mobile Me-like service coming out that will blow what we already have out of the water. Perhaps Apple will want to give users storage on the Web, thus eliminating our reliance on local storage in the future.

Anything is possible, really. Although, I do expect some huge announcement that will make Apple’s ambitious clear. It might only be a tease of what’s to come with the iPhone 5 and/or iOS5. Or there might be a full release of cloud-based storage and services. Either way, I’m excited.

Final Thoughts

There is still plenty of mystery surrounding WWDC 2011. We are told that this event is focusing on software, but it is entirely possible that Apple will go ahead and announce an iPhone 5, iPad 3, and who knows what else. One unknown source isn’t much to go by, even though other journalists are fast to believe anything someone writes on the Web.

But I do believe that this WWDC will place the emphasis on software upgrades and the transition to the cloud. I’m not sure what to expect exactly — which is exciting in its own right — but I do expect Apple’s future visions to be teased or fully revealed at this conference.

I’m sure, however, that the rumors will continue to build and the story will change. After all, June 6, 2011, is over two months away.

About James Mowery
James Mowery is a passionate technology journalist, entrepreneur, and Apple enthusiast who has written for various top-tier publications like Mashable, Techi, and CMSWire. Follow him on Twitter: @JMowery.

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