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WWDC: Why this year is different

Ryan Faas | June 3, 2011
For one thing, Apple's already announced what's coming: iCloud, Lion and iOS 5.

Apple did something really unusual this week: It pre-announced what it's going to talk about next week at its big Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). For many companies, talking up new products, technology road maps, earnings estimates and overall plans is standard operating procedure. For Apple, it's unheard of. The company always keeps its plans quiet until they're actually announced -- even if most Apple watchers have some idea beforehand. That's what allows Apple CEO Steve Jobs to offer up his signature "one more thing" when he speaks.

Why did Apple telegraph its plans, and exactly what will Jobs and company announce on Monday?

No doubt, the company is looking to manage expectations. Apple events always create a lot of hype. This year, however, Apple wants to tamp down any expectations of a new iPhone or some other hardware. It's also priming the pump a bit. While the iCloud streaming music service is something most Apple watchers have been expecting, iOS 5 hasn't been on the radar -- partly because Apple usually announces iOS updates in lockstep with new iPhones. And since Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion" is due out this summer, it's a natural topic to highlight.

Apple could also be trying to simply remind everyone that WWDC isn't really about hardware. It's a developer conference and training ground first, and an Apple media event second. That means its real focus should be on operating system and software updates.

And certainly, reminding people that Jobs will be at the keynote helps generate attention for the show. Yes, he is still on medical leave. But announcing that he'll be at the event is tantamount to saying he's still relatively healthy and involved. (Not surprisingly, Apple's stock price ticked up on the news Tuesday.)

I think one of the biggest things to keep in mind about WWDC 2011 is that it is a developer event and that it has returned to its traditional focus after last year's iOS-only approach. This means that there will be both Mac and iOS development tracks, as well as an enterprise technology track.

Yes, despite the assumption that Apple largely ignores the enterprise market, it does include some very in-depth Mac/iOS enterprise integration sessions at WWDC -- and the fact that Apple has reinstated that track indicates that the company still has its eye on the enterprise, even after canceling the Xserve.

Here's what to look for from next week's big show.




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