A pass to the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference has become one of the hardest tickets to get in tech, and with good reason: Over the past dozen years or so, the WWDC has become the Cupertino, Calif., company’s most prominent stage.
In 2005, for instance, Apple CEO Steve Jobs used the WWDC to announce that the company would use Intel processors in its computers; 2008 brought the iOS App Store; 2011 saw the debut of iCloud services; and last year’s WWDC featured the launch of Apple Music.
The 2016 WWDC will run June 13-17. Forget showing up in person without a ticket—Apple issued all but 350 passes through a lottery, the distribution method it adopted after the 2013 WWDC sold out in roughly two minutes. You can watch a livestream of the WWDC keynote on Apple.com. Here’s what to watch for throughout Apple WWDC 2016.
App Store Changes
First, the company will let developers sell more kinds of apps on a subscription basis—and it will let them keep more of that revenue after the first year. The company’s 30 percent cut, known unfondly as the “Apple tax,” will drop to 15 percent on subscriptions renewed after 12 months.
That’s important because Apple doesn’t let iOS apps sell subscriptions outside of its own payment system—its rules forbid even linking to third-party payment sites. This change could ease business for news and media services.
But it could also make some apps more expensive for consumers. It’s unclear whether developers will be able to sell frequently upgraded apps on a subscription basis, as the influential Apple developer and blogger John Gruber fretted in a post Wednesday.
Apple also told such tech-news sites as the Verge that Apple has drastically sped up app-review times. That’s great news for developers and users alike, as the wait to have Apple approve even bug-fix releases has sometimes left glitchy code lingering on iPhones and iPads.
Finally, you’ll also see ads in the App Store—but Apple says they will appear only when you search for an app and will be subject to strict privacy controls.
iOS and OS X . . . Er, macOS?
The unveiling of new versions of Apple’s mobile and desktop operating systems at WWDC has become as predictable as the iPhone’s annual update each September.
Rumors have been scarcer than in previous years about those two operating systems, but it seems highly likely that Siri will become more useful in iOS and move to OS X.
In iOS 10, expect Apple to invite third-party apps to plug into Siri for hands-free voice control. That fits in with the company’s moves in recent years to open core iOS features to other developers—such as when it added support for third-party keyboards to 2014’s iOS 8.
If you’ve found yourself saying “Hey Siri” to your Mac out of habit, you should be happy to see Siri allow the same verbal interaction in OS X 10.12. (Windows users who have had this option with Windows 10’s Cortana since last year can in turn enjoy an “I told you so” moment.)
An increasing role for Siri—maybe even in a standalone, Web-connected speaker such as the Amazon Echo and the upcoming Google Home—could open fascinating possibilities. Imagine this, suggested Adam Engst, co-founder of the long-running Mac-news site TidBITS: “You use your iPhone to issue custom commands to your Mac while you’re out of the office.”
A recent post by MacRumors suggests a simpler form of mobile-desktop interaction: unlocking your nearby Mac with your iPhone’s TouchID fingerprint sensor. That’s the reverse of Android’s Smart Lock feature, where your phone unlocks automatically when it's within Bluetooth range of a designated computer.
Don’t be surprised to see a keynote slide Monday with “OS X” crossed out. Repeated references in developer documentation to a “macOS” moniker suggest Apple will retire the name it’s used for its desktop operating system since 2001.
That would match the lowercase spelling of iOS (and the Apple TV and Apple Watch’s tvOS and watchOS) and allow users to stop saying things like “Oh Ess Ten Ten Dot Twelve.”
Finally, Apple Music and iTunes should get some sort of refresh, although maybe not enough to stop users griping about some of their clumsier interface details. Bug fixes and performance updates—which will hopefully include making the desktop Safari browser less of a resource hog—are likely to be a big part of Apple’s pitch overall.
Hardware Hiatus at WWDC 2016
Some past WWDCs have featured major hardware launches, but that doesn’t seem likely to happen this time—even though most of Apple’s laptops and desktops haven’t seen a major update in at least a year.
That's what analysts are predicting, and it would fit with recent history: The 2014 and 2015 events focused on software and services. If, like me, you've been holding onto an aging iMac or MacBook Air hoping that new computers would drive down prices on laptops from 2015, you’ll have to wait a while longer.
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