WWDC 2011: The Rumor Roundup

With WWDC 2011 kicking off tomorrow, the rumors that have been circulating for months will finally come to a rest. With iOS, OS X Lion and iCloud pre-announced by Apple, the broad strokes of Steve Jobs’ keynote are already known. The details, however, are still quite fuzzy.

Let’s take a look at some of the major rumors in play.

New iPhone

Let’s go ahead and get this out in the open: we are really not expecting any new hardware at this year’s WWDC. While Apple has used the conference to launch every version of the device since the original, it looks like Apple is preparing for a fall launch this year. While Apple PR has been inviting press to the conference, we believe that the scope of Apple’s software announcements are enough for the company to want massive press coverage.

That said, when the next iPhone debuts, it will either be named the iPhone 4S, and just be a spec bump, or be named the iPhone 5, and have an entirely new look, with 4G. Or no 4G. The former has my money.

But like I said, we don’t expect any new hardware this week from Apple. This event is about software.

iOS 5 — Voice Control

Earlier this year, Apple purchased Siri, an application for voice control on mobile devices. Voice control is currently extremely limited on the iPhone, unlike Google’s Android operating system, which can just about be fully controlled by voice. Apple has the horsepower in the cloud to provide a similar service, and with the Siri acquisition, it has the technology. I would be disappointed not to see this in iOS 5.

iOS 5 — Revamped Notifications

This rumor also finds roots in recent Apple requisitions. Just two days ago, we reported that Peter Hajas, the developer behind MobileNotifer has been hired by a certain company in Cupertino. This time last year it was reported that Apple hired webOS interface designer Rich Dellinger as a Senior UI Designer. Dellinger was instrumental in designing webOS’ notifications, which are regarded as far better than those in iOS and even Android. Apple’s notifications in iOS have bothered me for years, and it really seems like Apple is ready to make some changes here with all of the new blood working on it.

iOS 5 — Twitter Integration

This is a new rumor on the scene, but an interesting one. Word on the street is that Apple is planning on unveiling “deep Twitter integration” in iOS 5. While no one really knows what that means, it could be a great move for Twitter, especially if Apple is paying the young company for access to its APIs in a unique (read: exclusive) way. The possibilities range from simple photo uploading to deep integration in Messages and Contacts. I think something will happen on this front, but it is hard to say what.

iOS 5 — Miscellaneous

Apple is expected to have a developer preview of iOS 5 ready to go this week at WWDC. We expect a fall release, in conjunction with the next iPhone model. Other rumors include widgets and deep iCloud integration.

iCloud — Music Streaming

This is the rumor leading into WWDC this year. All major record labels appear to be on board, for a cool $150 million. While the mechanics of a streaming cloud music service are still unknown, BusinessWeek reported recently that the software will scan local iTunes libraries, and then mirror tracks online, saving users time and bandwidth. Although BusinessWeek reported differently, the feeling is that at least at first, iCloud streaming will only be available for iTunes-purchased tracks. While that is a bummer, we expect that it is true for now, as a concession to the record labels.

While Apple is behind rivals Google and Amazon to cloud streaming and storage, those solutions lack deep integration in desktop and mobile software (except Google’s service on Android). They also lack agreements with the record labels.

iCloud — Data Syncing

That huge Apple data center in North Carolina has fueled tons of speculation this year. The most exciting one for me is the data syncing issue. This could include anything from cloud backups to mobile home folders. The possibilities really are endless with today’s bandwidth.

If iCloud can be used by developers to sync application data between Mac and iOS devices, it would make working across Apple’s devices a lot more seamless. Currently, iDisk attempts to get this done, but its slow speed is a huge issue. If Apple opens iCloud for app data syncing, our guess is that it will be free for users.

Lion — June 14 Launch

As recently as this weekend, rumors of a mid-June Lion release have surfaced. We aren’t sold on this, but we wouldn’t mind being surprised, either. The current build of Lion needs some work, and if iCloud will have deep OS X ties, developers will need time before a launch to be prepared for the changes. We expect to see a “Gold Master” build handed to developers this week, with a launch later in the summer.

The Truth About WWDC

This has the potential to be the biggest WWDC in years — probably since Apple announced the switch to Intel back at WWDC 2005. That said, the Apple rumor mill is insane. There are bound to be things that have been rumored that don’t have a single grain of truth in them. There will be people who are disappointed that there’s not a new iPhone, or that parts of iCloud won’t be free.

Stephen Hackett, formerly a Lead Mac Genius at Apple, now spends his days running the IT department of a large non-profit in Memphis, TN. He writes about Apple, design and journalism at forkbombr.net. Like all twenty-somethings, you can find him… Full Bio