WWDC: 5 Questions Apple Must Answer - InformationWeek
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12:39 PM

WWDC: 5 Questions Apple Must Answer

Apple takes the stage on Monday at its own conference to address developers. Here's what we really want to know.

Apple WWDC 2013: 8 Things To Expect
Apple WWDC 2013: 8 Things To Expect
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference kicks off with a keynote address on Monday, June 10. Although the conference runs for four days, most of the excitement will take place during Monday's 90-minute presentation. Apple hasn't introduced new products since last year, so anticipation for this year's keynote is high.

The company is expected to show off two new operating systems and perhaps announce new laptops. It might also introduce a streaming music service and an iPhone trade-in program. But here's what we really want to know:

1. What Is The Future Of Apple TV?

Apple CEO Time Cook continues to refer to Apple TV as a "hobby." The product is great for streaming movies, television shows and other content to television sets. It hooks into iTunes and allows people to access all their iTunes purchases in the place they most like to consume content: their living room.

[ Is it time for Apple to lower the walls protecting its OS? Read Apple Must Look Beyond Its Platforms. ]

Though Apple TV has gotten smaller over the years, Apple hasn't added much to it. Aside from occasional user interface redesigns, it's been pretty much the same product for ages. But it has tons of potential. What's next for Apple TV? Will it ever do more than stream content? What about apps? Games? Adding support for apps and games could really make Apple TV an interesting proposition, and make it a better product that Apple can position as a competitor to Xbox or PlayStation.

2. Is The Mac Pro Necessary?

Apple's Mac Pro, its gigantic desktop computer, also hasn't seen a significant overhaul in years. Its hulking metallic shell is essentially unchanged from the old G5s of 10 years ago. The innards have been updated with new chips, ports and the like, but it hasn't offered any breakthrough features for as far back as anyone can remember.

Is this dinosaur of a machine worth updating? It is no doubt a workhorse that many businesses use on a daily basis. Its modular design allows it to be updated as users' needs grow, and its incredible horsepower offers plenty of oomph for tasks. But Apple's iMacs are excellent machines that cost about half as much as the Mac Pro. They provide more than enough computing power for most people. The Mac Pro needs to either be reborn or left to die. Which path will Apple choose?

3. What's The OS X And iOS End Game?

The last two versions of Apple's desktop operating system, Lion and Mountain Lion, have incorporated some elements of Apple's iOS platform. The Notification Center, for example, takes cues from iOS, as do some of the swiping gestures used to move from screen to screen and app to app. Some of these additions to OS X have been welcomed, while others have not.

Apple is expected to show off OS X 10.9 and iOS 7, the next generation of both platforms. How much more of iOS will Apple push into OS X? Certainly some features, such as Siri, would be a nice addition. If Apple isn't considering that, it should be -- Google recently beat Apple to the voice-search punch with its latest version of the Chrome browser, which now accepts natural-language searches.

Beyond simple features, though, Apple needs to define the future for its two operating systems. How long will they be kept separate? When will the line between the two begin to blur? How can Apple simplify developing for both platforms?

4. Can Apple Continue To Thrive With Just One iPhone?

Apple's executives are asked repeatedly if or when the company will make a bigger iPhone. Apple's answer has been that it doesn't want to sacrifice the user experience -- i.e., one-handed operation -- just so it can sell another version of the iPhone. The company offers only one new phone per year, while its competitors debut wave after wave of new products. Samsung alone sells dozens of models in various sizes and price points. Its army of Androids has made Samsung successful, and it recently pushed the iPhone 5 out of the top-selling-handset spot at U.S. carriers.

Many users consider the iPhone 5's four-inch screen too small. Half of today's leading devices, in comparison, offer screens ranging up to six inches with full HD resolution. Apple's Cook recently said that the company weighed the iPhone's screen size and resolution very carefully, and there's no arguing with the fact that Apple has sold tens of millions of iPhone 5s even with its smaller screen size. More than a larger iPhone, however, Apple needs a less expensive iPhone. COO Phil Schiller has said that the company will never make a "cheap" product, but it could make an inexpensive one if it wanted to; for example, the iPad Mini. Will Apple stick to its guns or bend to market pressure?

5. Will The Changes To iOS 7 Be Enough, Or Go Too Far?

It's no secret that Apple will show off iOS 7 during WWDC. It will probably provide a beta version of the operating system as early as next week, with the final version expected to land in September or October. Apple ousted long-time iOS leader Scott Forestall last year and put its hardware design guru, Jony Ive, in charge of giving iOS a much-needed refresh.

Change is good, but sometimes too much change can be problematic. The new operating system is expected to have more black-and-white elements, take on a flatter look, and lose the textures that have defined iOS's personality for six years. Apple needs to tread carefully. It needs to revitalize the operating system without making it unattractive or unintuitive. Ive can design attractive hardware, there's no denying that, but can his hardware prowess translate to success with software and the user interface of iOS? It's hard to predict.

Beyond the general look and feel, though, it is important to know what Apple is going to do for developers. Will the changes to the appearance have any effect on how developers code applications? Further, what new tools will Apple give to developers for writing those apps? Apple is famous for maintaining strict control over its ecosystem. Will iOS 7 mark a change in that respect? Is Apple ready to open up, even just a little bit?

The keynote begins at 10 a.m. (1 p.m. EST). InformationWeek will be covering developments live.

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User Rank: Strategist
6/11/2013 | 1:58:17 PM
re: WWDC: 5 Questions Apple Must Answer
I have very limited experience with Apple products. When I have worked with the Dinosuar Mac Pro, I have seen a very well designed, built like a tank, built to last computer. With the outragious price you have to pay for Apple products, at least you get quality. The Advantage that Microsoft has is that Windows runs on any clone, or brand, is cheap to purchase, cheap to maintain, and easy to repair. Most people do not need a computer built like the MAC Pro, my last clone I built lasted 20 years.
Terabyte Net
Terabyte Net,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/9/2013 | 2:30:13 AM
re: WWDC: 5 Questions Apple Must Answer
Apple is so arrogant that it simply doesn't get it. Their latest commercials claim more people listen to music on an iPhone than any other phone. While that may be technically true, if you're looking at specific models, but if you take all Android and Windows phones, they beat Apple hands down. Apple simply doesn't understand that. Put a Samsung S4 or a Motorola Droid Razr Maxx HD up next to an iPhone 5 and the iToy looks positively ancient. That users can add and swap all the storage they want with Android phones adds yet another reason to dump Apple. The S4 trumps almost all high end phones by allowing users to replace batteries or carry a spare if it's heavily used. Apple cannot adapt because they do not see the need for change. They will be a has-been by 2020 just like Blackberry is now.
User Rank: Apprentice
6/8/2013 | 4:47:48 PM
re: WWDC: 5 Questions Apple Must Answer
Apple has lost a lot of iPhone users to to alternate smart-phone operating systems. particularly Android. Advantages cited by Apple and its die-hard fans are not relevant to those who have left Apple's iOS or will leave it. Either Apple will adapt to the market to give what is wanted by those who have already left it or will leave it, such as a larger screen; or, the iPhone will become a niche market. The clock is ticking. Apple will have to both wake up to this fact and act on it within the near future; otherwise, at a certain point, the critical mass of those with alternate smart-phones will be reached and it will be too late.
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