One of the biggest landmarks in any technology year is almost upon us, with the Apple WWDC getting underway on Monday. This is the venue for the consumer electronics giant to announce its latest software developments, and there are also suggestions that Apple could take the rare move in recent years of unveiling hardware as well.
Cook keynote at WWDC
Chief Executive Tim Cook will launch the WWDC in a keynote speech in San Francisco, with the conference lasting for an entire week. During the event, Apple will announce the most important software updates and upgrades that it has in mind for the next 12 months, and central to this will be an upgraded Siri and brand new version of the iOS operating system.
There have also been murmurings that Apple could possibly unveil the second iteration of the Apple Watch at WWDC 2016, but the general consensus of opinion is that the consumer electronics behemoth will probably stick to software releases at the event and unveil the second Apple Watch at a later date, probably alongside the iPhone 7. This means that the iPhone unveiling will be a truly blockbuster event this year, and this will allow Apple to concentrate on software at the WWDC.
According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Wamsi Mohan, “Siri is likely to be a primary focus of the event,” and this prediction certainly makes logical sense. The personal assistant marketplace is becoming increasingly important, and yet one of the biggest innovators in technology remains a little behind the pack in the opinion of most analysts.
Both Google and Microsoft have delivered personal assistants with functionality that outstrips Siri, and thus Apple has reportedly been working hard behind the scenes in order to deliver a new version of the software which really wows consumers.
Mohan is certainly optimistic about the influence of Siri on the future of Apple, with the analyst implementing a buy rating and $120 12-month price target on Apple stock in a note to clients just this week. Central to the updates in this new smart version of Siri will be a Siri SDK, enabling the program to be integrated with third-party applications.
This could help Apple join the legion of messenger bots which are already available on the marketplace, with both Google and Facebook having already investing in this technology. The future could see this smarter version of Siri integrating with such important software as Uber, enabling users to call a cab without needing to open the taxi-based software.
It is also believed that Siri functionality will be significantly improved on the flagship iPhone as well, with the ability to answer phone calls, play recorded messages and transcribe voicemail particularly predicted for the app. Reports have also indicated that Siri will integrate with the OS X desktop operating system in the foreseeable future, something that Microsoft has already instigated with Windows and its own personal assistant.
It has even been suggested in some quarters that Apple could release its own Siri speaker, as suggested by The Information. Whether this is feasible in this generation is debatable, as it would certainly pose difficulties for Apple, and it is notable that the corporation doesn’t currently own a company that manufactures Bluetooth speakers.
Aside from the upgraded Siri, Apple will also largely concentrate on new operating systems at the WWDC, with new iOS, OS X tvOS and watch OS releases anticipated. But central to this will undoubtedly be the iOS 10 release; always a focus of the World Wide Developers Conference.
Several features have been linked with this tenth version of the Apple mobile operating system, but improvements to the Homekit tool have been particularly ubiquitous. Apple has apparently been working on some nifty improvements to the smart home software, with this expected to be a particularly strong growth market in the coming years.
It is also predicted in some quarters that this latest iOS version will be more readily integrated with the OS X operating system. Cross-device compatibility is already something that Apple has experimented with, but this feature could be extended significantly with iOS 10. Cross-device apps could be coming to both operating systems in 2016, something that Microsoft is currently attempting to achieve with Windows. The obvious advantage that Apple has in this department over Microsoft, though, is that its mobile operating system is hugely popular, while Windows Phone certainly is not.
iOS 10 is also expected to multitask in a more sophisticated manner, as this is an area where it is often perceived that the rival Android has an advantage. This will form part of an overall ethos of ensuring that the operating system is more user-friendly, and another aspect that this will be the inclusion of more 3D Rouch functionality. It has been rumored for some time that Apple will eventually abandon the Home button in the iPhone, and while this is not expected to materialize in 2016, improving the functionality of 3D Touch could pave the way to this ultimate outcome.
Apple is also expected to revamp its Apple Music software, and announce these improvements at the WWDC. It is anticipated that the consumer electronics giant will place more emphasis on music playing in 2016 with its hardware device releases, and thus improvements to the Apple Music service would fit in with this ethos.
The full streaming service has already attracted 13 million subscribers, and so Apple will build on its existing successes by releasing a more streamlined version of the software. The interface of Apple Music has been criticized for being somewhat confusing, and Apple will correct this with the latest release in the series.
It all adds up to an intriguing WWDC conference, even if Apple is ultimately reticence regarding the unveiling of the Apple Watch 2. Some analysts still suggest that the smartwatch could be seen for the first time at the San Francisco event, but it is probable that the software-focus will remain for another year at least.