Typically, before big Apple press events, much of the news leaks out beforehand. But in front of this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple has managed to keep a pretty tight lid on things.
WWDC is traditionally used as a forum to announce the latest updates to the major operating systems, along with some new apps (like the News app announced last year) and new platforms (like HealthKit announced in 2014).
This year’s show is expected to focus on new versions of OS X, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. We’ll also see broad improvements to Apple’s personal assistant, Siri, and the deeper integration of Siri across the various OSs and apps.
But the details are sketchy. (You can see all the things we expect this Monday in our WWDC warm-up.) Still, there are some very interesting rumors about specific products, some of which are brand new, flying around in the days before the show. And some of these rumors sound very, very truthy.
The name “OS X” was always a little clunky. It was meant to refer to a computer operating system that runs Mac personal computers. So why didn’t they just call it Mac OS? Maybe Apple preferred the clean and sterile sound of OS X. That sounds likely.
The rumor is that Apple will indeed rename the OS “Mac OS” or some variant of that, and will say so on Monday. To bring the branding in line with the names of the other operating systems (iOS, tvOS, watchOS), Apple might opt for “macOS.” In fact, Apple may have already tipped its hand to just that variation on a developer page.
A news report on Thursday said Apple will announce a new iMessenger app for Android at WWDC.
The timing of such an announcement would be interesting. Android’s creator, Google, came under fire a few weeks ago for releasing a new (Allo) messaging app that does not support end-to-end encryption by default–the user has to turn it on. Apple has furiously defended end-to-end encryption, and iMessage features exactly that.
Right now the iMessage app runs only on iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches running iOS 5 or later, and on Macs running OS X Mountain Lion or later.
Apple Pay first did in-store mobile payments, then in-app payments, then added support for coupons and rewards programs. But the iOS feature could grow in a hundred different directions, and show up in a hundred different settings (see No. 4 below).
It seems reasonable that Apple Pay’s next trick would be facilitating payments between individuals, as Facebook Messenger already does. You can find iOS apps that will do that, but the addition of peer-to-peer payments to Apple Pay, which is deeply integrated in the device and the OS, might make the process easier and more secure.
Another rumor says Apple will introduce Apple Pay for websites, which would put it in direct competition with PayPal as a payment option at all kinds of online retail sites.
People spend ridiculous amounts of time in messaging apps throughout the day. That’s why messaging apps have grown into launchpads for lots of other services, like personal assistants, bots, and shopping apps. For many messaging apps, like WeChat, one of the first additions has been payment capabilities.
It makes perfect sense for Apple to integrate its Apple Pay mobile payments platform with its iMessage platform. This might enable iMessage users to easily send money to friends, or, logically, to pay for goods and services they might one day buy within the app, like food, clothing, or plane tickets.
I’ll just say right now I don’t believe this one is going to happen, despite an Information report that it will. Amazon’s Echo voice-based home assistant has been a surprise hit, and Google has now jumped in the market with its Google Home product, but Apple isn’t likely to address a market that’s so new. The company is in the habit of entering established markets, but only when it’s had time to build a product that’s good enough to dominate it. With all its other projects, I don’t see how Apple could have had enough time to build such a product.
But I could be wrong.
It would be supremely entertaining to see an “Apple Home” AI assistant announced. However, it might be equally as likely that Apple would build personal assistant and smart home device control capabilities into the remote control for its Apple TV streaming device. That has also been rumored as a WWDC announcement. Even this sounds sketchy. It’s hard to imagine a device that would spend so much of its time near the TV becoming Siri’s ears and voice throughout the home.
We’ll know by noon Pacific time on Monday which of these rumors turn out to be true. I guarantee they won’t all pan out, and that Apple will announce some things that nobody’s thought of. The real question is whether or not all the upgrades and new apps and platform upgrades, taken together, will add up to a general ecosystem offering that can attract more users away from Android World.
I’ll be there with my esteemed colleagues Rick Tetzeli and Harry McCracken to report the details and help figure out what it all means. Here’s where we’ll be posting our thoughts in real-time.