ANY hardware can only as good as the software powering it and this alone makes the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) the most important event in Apple's calendar, as the five-day conference allows developers from all over the world learn about the future of Apple's iOS and OS X platforms.
WWDC 2014 kicks off at Moscone West Convention Center, with a keynote address. This two hour keynote is the only event that invited media get to attend, as the rest of the events, seminars and workshops here are for developers only.
Predicting what Apple is going to unveil at the keynote is like predicting the lucky draw but signs of something big have been circulating ever since Apple announced that it will be hosting a live streaming of the keynote. And Apple has not announced any major products this year, other than refreshed MacBook Airs.
Further raising expectations is Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services, Eddy Cue, who said last week that Apple's product pipeline for this year is the best he has seen in his 25 years at the Cupertino company.
At last year's WWDC, Apple unveiled OS X 10.9 Mavericks, iOS 7, the cylindrical-shaped Mac Pro, a refreshed MacBook Air, iTunes Radio and the iWork productivity suite for iCloud.
Software: OS X 10.10 and iOS 8
This year, we can expect the next OS X and an updated mobile operating system in iOS 8. According to online rumours, the desktop OS X 10.10 will be more in line with the mobile iOS in terms of look and feel. Siri, Apple's mobile personal virtual assistant, might also finally make the leap to the desktop.
iOS 8 will likely bring improvements for the much maligned Apple Maps and the voice-recognition virtual assistant Siri. In addition, OS X's Preview and TextEdit document editing and viewer apps might make the leap to iOS 8.
With the recent acquisition of Beats Electronics and its music streaming service Beats Music, iTunes Radio - Apple's free Internet radio service - could likely become an app on its own and transform into a music streaming service powered by Beats Music. Right now, iTunes Radio is only available in US and Australia.
As for something entirely new, the Healthbook app on iOS 8 will be the one to lookout for. This rumoured app is supposed to track fitness and health related information from the iPhone 5s' M7 motion co-processor and maybe from sensors found in the long-rumoured "iWatch" smart watch. As such, the Healthbook app will also likely give a sneak preview of the likely new hardware that Apple has in the pipeline.
A Financial Times report last week said that Apple might unveil its smart home solution at WWDC. It is supposed to be a new software platform that centres around the iPhone, where it will be used to connect and control Internet-connected lights and security systems and other household appliances. But do not expect a major new platform, as many analysts claimed it will just be an extension of Made for iPhone certification program.
Hardware: Cheaper iMacs, Retina MacBook Air or new Apple TV?
Prominent KGI securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported that cheaper all-in-one desktop iMacs and 8GB iPhone 5s might be announced during WWDC 2014. However, notable Apple blogger Jim Dalrymple, who has an almost impeccable record in confirming Apple rumours, quashed that prediction with his signature "Nope".
The Apple TV media streaming device might take on a more important role as well. Just last week, Mr Cue said the Apple TV will evolve this year with more content offerings. But again, he did not provide specific details.
While it might be too early to see the rumoured 4.7-inch or 5.5-inch iPhone 6 being announced, Apple can still pull a surprise as WWDC did see the launch of the iPhone 4 four years ago.
But since a new iPhone has always been launched in September and this year should not be an exception. In addition, any new hardware accessories like the iWatch should also be launched at around the same time.
The most likely hardware announcement might be the rumoured 12-inch MacBook Air with Retina display. It remains the only void in Apple's laptop offering.
The price cuts of the recent refreshed MacBook Airs might be a prelude to the introduction of a flagship Retina MacBook Air. The only question is how high resolution of a display is Apple going to stuff it with. Will it be the same 2,560 by 1,600 pixels display found on 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro? We will know in a few hours.
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