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WWDC 2012: What to expect

Michael deAgonia | June 11, 2012
This year's Worldwide Developers Conference looks to be unlike any of its predecessors in scope and scale, with Apple CEO Tim Cook likely to talk about everything from iOS 6 to OS X Mountain Lion to new hardware.

The catch? Announcing a new iPhone would extinguish current iPhone 4S demand overnight. Unless Apple plans to ship the iPhone within the next few weeks I'm dubious of any announcement. Anything different would kill iPhone sales as everyone waits for the new one, hitting Apple's bottom line for the quarter.

My prediction? Despite the rumors, Apple will leave any future iPhone hardware announcement for this fall. (This is one time I wouldn't mind being wrong, though.)

More about Mountain Lion

Also on tap: More information about the next-generation Mac OS -- OS X Mountain Lion. Much is already known about the major Mountain Lion features, but there are a few tricks likely to be detailed at WWDC, such as support for a pixel-dense screen Apple would likely market as a Retina Display for laptops.

Speculation about new slimmed-down MacBook Pro and updated MacBook Air laptops has been rampant for months, and analysts expected they'd be rolled out last month. Obviously that didn't happen, meaning they're a virtual lock to be unveiled at WWDC. Bolstering that view: Apple is now accepting apps in the Mac App Store that tout "Retina graphics." What remains to be seen is which models will carry the new display, which offers super-high resolutions like those seen on the iPhone and the latest iPad.

In the past, Apple has offered different options for notebook screens, from glossy or matte finishes to slightly higher resolutions. Will a Retina Display grace only the highest end of the notebook line? Or will Apple use the Retina Display across the entire line-up as a major differentiator from the competition? Not many companies have the clout -- or the will -- to push such an expensive initiative, but bold moves would help Apple stay ahead of copy-cat competition. My expectation is that a Retina Display will be available as a standard feature on all but the base models, and they'll cost more than existing laptops.

As long as Apple is bringing over high-end displays to its portables, I'd like to see it add Siri functionality to OS X. While I'm skeptical that Siri -- still officially in beta on the iPhone 4S -- will make its debut in Mountain Lion, I'm hoping dictation will. Currently, OS X is capable of speech recognition for limited voice commands, courtesy of the Speakable Items service. It's been a part of the Mac OS since the mid-1990s, and mostly ignored for just as long.

New hardware

Given that iMacs are overdue for updates, watch for a move to Intel's Ivy Bridge processors. Even more in need of an upgrade is the Mac Pro line, which hasn't seen major changes in two years. (AppleInsider last week published a document listing leaked parts numbers. The best news there: Apple appears to already be shipping the hardware to stores, meaning it'll be available right away.)

 

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