Predictions for WWDC10 and beyond
This is the result of me reading tea leaves and trying to draw my own conclusions. It is essentially wishful thinking or what I think makes sense given how I read Apple's recent history. I'm writing this for fun, don't take it too seriously. :-) As you'll see, I clearly have no inside information. XD
I'm not going to cover the (apparently) obvious stuff, I assume there will be a new iPhone running iPhone OS 4, and I assume the iPad will run it too. I assume Safari 5 is released with support for extensions. Oh, and Mac OS X 10.6.4 is released, for what it's worth (the Mac is now a legacy platform, read on for more). And Xcode 4 because hey, it coincides with OS 4 just as Xcode 3 coincided with OS 3 (from the perspective of an iPhone developer).
Prediction: Apple will allow apps to be distributed outside of the App Store.
Why: The App Store is cemented as THE best place to get great apps which Apple has vetted, and that's not going to change, but with 200,000 apps and no per-app submission fee, this has to be costing Apple a lot of money. That, coupled with the damage the App Store's policies are causing to their goodwill among the developer community will see them change their direction without costing them anything strategically. Apple might charge a per-app fee for inclusion in the App Store to make the process more manageable for them and reduce clutter. The App Store will focus on more "serious" apps but still allow developer to participate under its (adjusted?) set of rules. iAds is only available to App Store apps, and iAds will be hugely compelling. This will be a huge blow to Android which will no longer be able to use its openness as a competitive advantage for attracting developers.
The fallout: Now that apps that do anything can be distributed, there's nothing Apple can or will do about people using cross-compilers and writing apps that interpret code. This opens the door to people building development tools for the iPad and iPhone. Will running non-App Store apps void your warranty?
Ultimately, I would love to see Apple ship HyperCard for the iPad, but I'm not predicting this, just wishing it would happen. I just think it's a logical and beautiful next step. Apple must be wondering what might have been if they had kept HyperCard alive and ported it to Windows instead of letting Java (but ultimately Flash) take over the role it could have easily played on the Internet had they been paying attention.
Don't get all purist about apps having to be pure HTML. The App Store proved great web apps can be native too.
HyperCard would make programming accessible to a new generation of kids and computer users - the segment Apple wishes they could have reached in the late 80s, but failed to because they were simply way too far ahead of their time. It's not too late, the iPad is the start of a renaissance in computing, a reboot, and this is the opportunity to do it again with a product that actually reaches the mass market (something the Mac failed to ever achieve despite its greatness). The iPad and devices like it (including those running Android or Chrome OS or web OS or Windows Mobile or Linux etc) are the PC moving forward.
Prediction: WWDC attendees get a free 4th-gen iPhone. Explains the $300 bump. I think this only happens to placate developers if they're intending to have the iPhone in stores on the morning of June 7th since developers will be shitting bricks worrying if their apps run on the new hardware or not.
Prediction: Apple's huge investment in data centers is unveiled, free(?) Mobile Me for iPhone/iPad/Mac customers with pervasive data sync and storage and a full suite of HTML5-based apps that run great on iPhone OS, Windows, and Mac. Mail, iCal, Address Book, iWork and iLife (including iTunes) move to the web (that's what they've been working on instead of new Mac versions - they want to extend iLife to Windows because it makes the iPhone and iPad more valuable to their Windows-using customers, which, let's be honest, is the vast majority of their current customer base). Apple realizes they can no longer ignore the fact most of their customers aren't Mac users, and realizes those customers just found the device they really want instead of a new PC (or Mac). There's huge opportunity there for Apple. Why did those customers refuse to buy Macs for over 25 years but jumped on the iPad the minute it was released? Don't ignore reality.
Prediction: Siri technology helps partially fulfill the vision of the Knowledge Navigator.
Prediction: Mac OS X will become irrelevant, quickly. As in, it already is. Note: Windows has been irrelevant, as far as the future of computing is concerned, for years, if not forever. Once the iPad can do the 90% of what 90% of people want to do with their computer (the 80% "good enough" solution - Windows is a great, depressing example), personal computers will regress back to niche tools as they were before the mid-80s. Only creative professionals, hackers, scientists/engineers and gamers will need the power they provide. Everyone else can get by with a smartphone and a tablet running apps in Apple's and/or Google's clouds. Apple may decide to drop Mac OS X and/or their Mac hardware entirely - if they drop Mac OS X, they'll port Cocoa and Xcode to Windows (or port Cocoa and create Visual Studio plugins for Cocoa). If they drop the Mac, they'll license Mac OS X to computer vendors. Yes, I know this sounds insane, but remember, Steve Jobs did just call PCs "trucks", and said consumers get quality but CIOs are often confused about what's good. He's sick of trying to push the Mac into places it's not appreciated. Just as Flash is waning, so are WIMP-oriented desktop operating systems. Always-connected multi-touch devices are the way forward.
Apple said "this isn't the Mac's year" with respect to focus at WWDC. Do you think their will ever be a WWDC again that focuses on the Mac and not on the iPhone? Do you think there will ever be a WWDC with a Mac ADA and not an iPhone ADA? No way. Look at the list of state of the unions this year versus previous years. What's changed? The Mac is now the third-most important platform at Apple behind the iPhone OS platform and the Safari platform, and RIGHTLY SO. They sell way more iPhone OS devices than Mac devices. They can reach more customers with Safari than with Mac OS X. It is what it is folks, the writing is on the wall, wake up and smell the coffee, yada yada yada. Long live the Mac. The Mac is dead. Apple shows a spoof of the Monty Python "I'm not dead yet" sketch where the old nearly-dead guy is Windows. It's dead too, it just refused to admit it. Only Steve Jobs has the balls to kill the Mac. I believe he'll do it, and I believe it will be the right decision for Apple. They were never able to reach the mass market with the Mac, but they've done it with the iPhone OS and they should ride that all the way.
See also: the newly improved Safari Dev Center. The new HTML5 page on apple.com.
Prediction: (This is based on an Apple patent application I saw recently) Apple will make it possible for Wi-Fi hotspots to advertise (using Bonjour) iPhone OS apps for download. This will make it possible for businesses to offer apps-on-demand when people enter their stores. Want a menu app for the restaurant you're in... you got it. Want an app for socializing with other spectators at the event you're at... you got it. Location, location, location. This wouldn't be possible if Apple didn't allow non-App Store apps.
Crazy Prediction: a MacBook Air with an A4 processor running the iPhone OS. Okay, I don't believe this for a second but I think it'd be really cool to see because it would completely confuse the industry. :-)
Not sure about this prediction by others: Apple TV in an iPod Touch form factor running iPhone OS 4. But, TVs aren't multi-touch... so maybe Apple TV is just an iPad app? I don't know, I think they'll do something with Apple TV because Google is doing Google TV, but I'm not sure what this is going to be yet. I'd love them to buy Nintendo and/or license the Wii remote. Apple TV might be part of the iTunes on the web strategy - TV subscriptions, cloud storage of music and movies. iAds is key here.
Prediction I refuse to get my hopes up about: Gianduia (or a developer preview of it) released. WebObjects rocks, and what I've seen of Gianduia rocks too.
Prediction: The current full Mac OS X will be phased out in favour of Mac OS X 10.7 (code name Clouded Leopard), Apple's answer to Chrome OS, running Apple's full suite of cloud-based software on Mobile Me (which will be renamed to something cooler). Look for a new MacBook Air-like device to be the first to run it.
Prediction: Macs with multi-touch trackpads will gain the ability to run iPhone OS apps. Why should the iPhone OS have 200,000 apps and the Mac doesn't, even though almost all of them already run fine on the Mac?
Do you think Apple will release Xcode for iPhone OS? I don't see it, but maybe.
send your comments (as tweets or links to blog posts) to: @JimRoepcke