Apple’s WWDC Keynote Predictions

The Apple WWDC Keynote is hours away and we’re expecting to hear about iOS6, Siri, new Macs, and my personal favorite, the new Apple TV SDK.

iOS 6

New Maps are a very strong contender as Apple has been hinting for some time that it’s going to abandon Google Maps as the map provider on iPhone and iPad, replacing it with something home-grown. Expect some kind of GPS-like navigation and an answer to Google Maps’ recent upgrade to 3D.

Many are speculating that Tim Cook’s recent pro-Facebook comments  — and his nudge to “stay tuned” about the relationship — point toward Facebook integration in iOS 6, similar to what iOS 5 did for Twitter.

We’ll see new features for iCloud as well. Apple’s cloud service was the highlight of WWDC 2011, and it went live last fall with the launch of the iPhone 4S. Its feature set is due for expansion, and it may be ready to start syncing video as well as photos from iOS devices.

Enhanced Siri

So far Siri’s ability to launch and interact with apps other than the default Apple ones has been extremely limited (but not nonexistent), mainly due to the absence of an API and software development kit (SDK). Those could very well be ready to launch, though Apple would still need to release them in a very controlled way to avoid having Siri’s network-based functionality overwhelmed by demand.

Siri may also be ready to finally spread to more devices, at least officially. It was a disappointment to some that Siri wasn’t included with the latest iPad, seeing as it uses the same processor as the iPhone 4S.

New Macs

Apple has many new Macs, both desktops laptops coming down the pike.

Most anticipated are the new MacBook Pros, which are rumored to take on some aspects of the MacBook Air design. The new Pros are rumored to have thinner and lighter designs, support for faster USB 3.0 ports, more options for solid-state drives and optical drives no longer offered on every model.

The Airs themselves will get refreshed as well, and all the new MacBooks will feature Intel’s latest: the third-generation Core processors.

There’s a very strong chance each and every one of those MacBooks will feature ultra-high-resolution screens — what Apple calls a “retina” display. Apple appears to be aggressively pursuing retina as a big differentiator in the marketplace; it’s all about retina on iOS, and there’s already some tech in the current MacBooks that support it.

The popular Mac Mini and iMac lines will likely get an upgrade to Ivy Bridge, USB 3.0 and potentially some other features. It’s possible the iMacs will also go retina, though somewhat less likely than the MacBooks, since it’s harder to pack that many pixels into a larger display.


Mountain Lion Improvements

If iOS 6 ends up including Facebook integration, there’s a decent chance OS X will follow, just like it did with Twitter. Besides simple neatness, there’s another reason to include it in OS X: Windows 8. Or rather, Windows 8′s “contracts” ability, which hard-wires sharing into Microsoft’s coming OS. Apple should respond with similar functionality, and OS-level integration with the two most popular social networks would cover its bases.

Look also for tweaks to support USB 3.0, more Thunderbolt devices and those juicy Mac retina screens that are more than likely imminent. There may also be a few features coming that better tie the Mac with Apple’s “hobby,” Apple TV.

Apple TV SDK

The next most logical expansion for Apple is the TV - but to do so Apple will need to open AppleTV up to developers. That means creating an SDK so they can create apps, and opening up another section of the App Store just for Apple TV apps.

Apple is actively trying to court manufacturers to use a new “control out” API in order for third-party manufacturers to make accessories that are compatible with the new Apple TV OS and the upcoming “iTV".

This would be a huge change in the home theater landscape, which has until this point relied on a mess of thousands of infrared codes and physical cables in order for devices to be interoperable, or Wi-Fi-controlled apps for each component and piece of hardware.

The control out API is said to work with all aspects of various popular components, even allowing control over things like program guides on a cable operators’ set top boxes and other hardware components.