The 30th edition of Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) is going to be a very different scene from the ones that have happened in the recent past at the San Jose Convention centre. Gone is the iconic developer expo which is full of bustling developers and journalists replaced with an online edition that’s right in line with the COVID era. It also comes at the backdrop of a huge developer revolt over Apple’s policing of the App Store in the wake of the banning of the Hey email app. Many developers have come out and called-out Apple for its so-called anti-competitive practices on top of the shroud of an anti-trust investigation by the European Union.
Adding to the spicy nature of this conference is the fact that Apple is expected to announce its breakup with Intel. Apple’s breakup with Intel comes on the back of multiple stumbles by the great microprocessor maker. It also coincides with Apple’s advances in developing custom semi-conductors for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and AirPods. The shift to ARM-based silicon will be a tectonic shift for the macOS platform. It could culminate in a slow unification cycle for Apple’s core computing platforms — setting them up for the next decade or two. The importance of this WWDC cannot be understated. Here is my wish list for Apple’s core computing platforms.
- There could be some rebranding in order. iOS could be rebranded to its old name of iPhone OS. This comes directly from Apple Insider Jon Prosser who tweeted the possibility of this happening. While iOS is a nice name, it will certainly clean up Apple’s operating system branding nomenclature. Every other product line at Apple has its OS name — for instance, the Apple TV has tvOS, the Apple Watch has watchOS, the iPad has iPadOS and a couple of years ago Apple even rebranded OSX to macOS. Apple is all about simplicity and this would be a step in the right direction.
- For the longest time, one has hoped for some major change to the core home-screen user interface and this could be the year that happens. There are multiple rumours that Apple will have a list view for the home-screen similar to the one it has introduced on watchOS. In addition to this, it may also introduce home-screen widgets which will make things a lot more fun. This can be expected because Apple introduced this feature on iPadOS last year. There is also chatter about a new wallpaper system which will integrate third-party wallpaper apps on an operating system level.
- Default applications will be a huge change for the platform. Apple holds notorious control over what apps can be set up as system defaults on iOS. Usually, these are core system apps like phone, messaging or camera — but now reports are coming in that Apple may allow third-party apps to be set up as a system default. I’m personally looking forward to setting up WhatsApp as my main messaging app. If this happens, it will make many developers happy and squash some resentment amongst them.
- Now that Apple objectively makes big-screen smartphones, which are expected to have even bigger screens in 2020 with the iPhone 12, one hopes for a split-screen view to use to apps at the same time. This isn’t a technical roadblock for Apple as its phones have the fastest processors around. This will make the iPhone even more useful for multitasking. While there are no concrete rumours for this, but this will be a nice touch.
- Other than this there are several other rumours. Apple is expected to make Messages easier to use by adding @ mentions like WhatsApp. It is said to be working on a translation tool for Safari similar to Google Translate and iTranslate. There is also chatter about a new augmented reality app as the iPhone 12 is set to get a LiDAR scanner. Apple is also said to be working on a feature called CarKey in collaboration with German automotive giant BMW. This feature could allow iOS 14 users to unlock their cars and find the location of their vehicles from the iPhone. Aside from this, Apple will likely have many performance enhancements for iOS which will make the system very stable.
- Apple has already made a huge change to iPadOS in 2020. The iPadOS 13.5 updated added trackpad support which is what enables the superb mousing experience on the magic keyboard and third-party keyboards, but Apple needs to do more. Apple needs to refine the experience a little more enabling more third party applications to have full trackpad support alongside websites.
- The Safari browser gained desktop-class browsing in 2019 with the launch of iPadOS. As good it is, Apple needs to push the envelope a little further. It has improved compatibility with all kinds of web apps. Apple could also perhaps allow third-party browsers to use their engines instead of them basing everything on the Safari WebKit underpinning.
- Multitasking should be improved further and perhaps Apple could make an allowance for windowed views hovering over each other? This will likely never happen, but this would certainly be a step in the direction of making an iPad feel more like a traditional computer.
- The Apple Pencil is said to receive a big update. Apple is said to be working on a feature for the Apple Pencil that will allow users to not only scroll using the tool but also markup and annotate websites.
- Since the addition of the LiDAR on the iPad Pro, one can expect an added focus on augmented reality. On iOS 14, there is already chatter a new app codenamed “Gobi” is being developed which could also likely translate to the iPad.
- The only major rumour for macOS has been a revamped Messages app based on the Catalyst technology. This means that Apple will port the same code as the iOS app on the Mac. This will lead to better integration of the messaging platform.
- Perhaps the biggest change that will come to macOS will be to the underlying architecture. So far for the last 15 years, macOS apps were compiled for the x86 architecture meant for Intel’s processors. Apple could announce a major shift away from Intel to its custom silicon, based on ARM’s designs. This could mean a new way of making apps for macOS apart from compatibility for iOS apps. This could come with a problematic transition for many old professional apps like Photoshop and Microsoft Office. One hopes that Apple will have something to make that transition easier.
- Surprisingly, there is very little known about what Apple is doing with macOS. 2020 marks the 20th year of Apple’s original unveil of OSX which is what macOS is. Apple could announce a dramatic shift to a brand new computing platform which would be a big deal. macOS has also kind of become old and boring so this kind of change will be fun.
- Like every year, one can expect Apple to add a ton of new watch faces in watchOS. There is chatter about a new Infograph-Pro watch face with a built-in tachymeter. Apple has been bringing analogue watch faces in its digital gadget which is a nice touch, but I’d like them to go one step further with a storefront for third-party watch faces.
- There is a rumour which states that Apple will introduce a new kids mode on the Apple Watch. This is being developed with the sole intention of allowing guardians to track what and how the Apple Watch is being used by their wards.
- For the longest time, there have been reports that Apple will bring blood oxygen detection to the Apple Watch. Apple is said to be bringing the software framework for this with watchOS 7. Apple is also said to be developing a sleep tracking app for the Apple Watch which will use the data from the suite of sensors on the device.
- tvOS is an anomaly in Apple’s software platforms. It powers the Apple TV and HomePod, two of Apple’s weakest hardware products in terms of sales. Like the Apple Watch, the Apple TV is said to be getting a dedicated Kids Mode on the inbound version of tvOS. Apple is also said to be adding a feature called screen time which tracks the amount of time spent using the device.
- Apple should also improve the integration of the HomePods with the Apple TV — for instance, right now users have to always manually select a stereo pair of HomePods as the audio source. This should be made automatic once selected by the user instead of the user having to change settings after switching on the Apple TV every time.
- HomePod could also use a slew of updates which will enable it to work well with third-party services instead of Apple’s own. So for instance, people who use Spotify to stream audio should be able to use voice commands for the service using the HomePod.
- General Siri enhancements for Apple’s entire ecosystem are much needed and arguably this problem is most prominent on the HomePod.
How to watch WWDC 2020
Apple is live streaming the entire developer conference this year. You can watch the conference on Apple’s homepage the web. On the Apple TV via the events app or for developers via the developer website or app. It starts at 1030pm India time tonight.