What to expect from Apple at WWDC 2009

Steve Jobs gives a speech at last year's WWDC. Jobs will not be emceeing in 2009.
Even without Steve Jobs emceeing, this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference sold out in record time.

Hopes are running high for products that the secretive corporation will unveil at the conference next week. Rumors about new iPhones, upgraded MacBooks and a highly anticipated touchscreen tablet abound, and there’s even gossip about a possible partnership with Verizon. But as wonderful as all those items sound, they remain unconfirmed by Apple. And frankly, some of the rumors sound too good to be true. What should we realistically expect The following is a list of everything Wired.com has heard about WWDC, accompanied by our analysis on which rumored announcements will or will not become a reality. New iPhones There’s a pile of evidence in the blogosphere suggesting Apple will release a lackluster upgrade for its popular iPhone. Likely features include a digital compass, processor and memory upgrades, an improved digital camera with auto-focus and video-recording capabilities, and other minor improvements. These hardware enhancements don’t add up to much. Instead, Apple seems to be training most of its focus on the previously-announced iPhone 3.0 — a major upgrade to the operating system that will add in-app commerce, tethering, live streaming, the ability to integrate apps with external accessories and push notification, along with a variety of other features such as cut-and-paste.

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We’re confident that Apple will introduce an iPhone upgrade at WWDC — it would be a perfectly logical move because Apple announced the current iPhone 3G at WWDC 2008. Also, it would be ideal for Apple to unveil the iPhone at the event so it can hold WWDC sessions on any new hardware APIs (the rumored digital compass, for example). The latest iPhone-related rumor involves Apple adding a 4-GB model to the line. We’re skeptical about this, because Apple already killed the 4-GB model introduced with the original iPhone just two months after its release in June 2007. Would many people buy one, even if it only costs $100 It’s more likely that Apple will add a 32-GB model to the iPhone family, because that’d be the next step up from the current 8-GB and 16-GB models. No Verizon deal BusinessWeek in April reported hearing from two sources “familiar with the matter” that Apple was working with Verizon on two new iPhones, which could be available as soon as this summer. This would be great news for Verizon customers unwilling to switch to AT&T, the exclusive U.S. carrier for the iPhone. Our thoughts Not happening — not anytime soon, at least. Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg told the Wall Street Journal he expects Apple to consider sharing the iPhone with Verizon in 2010 — when Verizon begins deploying its fourth-generation network. If Apple is indeed interested in working with Verizon, there is no incentive to make this announcement in mid-2009 — especially when Apple can stretch out the negotiations to shake more money out of its carrier partners. Also, historically Apple does not enjoy making announcements about products until they are finalized. Also, Apple said in late April it has no plans to change its exclusive relationship with AT&T. Flip-flopping on that statement about six weeks later would make that a blatant lie, wouldn’t it If any deal happens between Verizon and Apple, we expect it to happen no sooner than 2010. No touchscreen tablet As much as you might want one now, we don’t see this launching at WWDC. We agree with analyst Gene Munster’s arguments for why an Apple tablet is likely to appear no sooner than 2010. The strongest point raised is that Apple purchased chip company PA Semi in 2008, and Steve Jobs said the purpose of the acquisition was to develop iPhone and iPod chips. Also, Apple has recently been hiring chip designers. It’s reasonable to infer Apple would wait to introduce its newly developed mobile processor with the release of a highly anticipated touchscreen tablet. There’s no indication this is happening anytime soon. Incremental upgrades for Macbook family 9 to 5 Mac reported a rumor that Apple will roll out incremental upgrades to its unibody MacBooks. We buy that. Apple typically refreshes its notebooks every seven months, and the last upgrades were released in October. WWDC would be an opportune event to announce new MacBooks. Last, but not least We saved the most obvious for last. Apple said in a press release that it plans to preview new features and APIs for its next-generation operating systems iPhone 3.0 and Mac OS X Snow Leopard. For iPhone, expect Apple to lay out the final roadmap for the iPhone 3.0 software developer kit, speaking more extensively on the features we previously wrote about. For Snow Leopard, Apple will likely nerd out about the OS’ optimization for supporting multi-core processors (i.e., Grand Central).