We already know much about Worldwide Developers Conference 2017, which starts on Monday June 5 in San Jose. As usual the rumor mill has been active and unlike in some years most of the rumors are in accord. The consensus is that while the World Wide Developer’s Conference is still going to be mostly about software, there will be hardware announcements.
This actually makes sense for a couple of reasons. First, it’s clear that Apple CEO Tim Cook is trying to get away from the rigid annual announcement schedule that Apple used to follow.
This started in March 2016 when Apple announced a new iPhone and a new smaller iPad Pro. Now new products are apparently being announced and shipped when they’re ready, even if that means iPads in the spring or laptops at WWDC.
Although WWDC is aimed primarily at developers, it actually makes sense to announce new hardware products at this show. After all, those developers need to know what hardware products they need to create applications or. So a significant addition to Apple’s products lines, such as a new Siri-controlled speaker, is something they need to know about.
WWDC also provides insight about what not to expect from Apple, at least in the near future. For example, while Apple is apparently keeping the MacBook Air in its lineup, it won’t announce a upgrade for this notebook and it doesn’t appear to have stellar future. It looks as if Apple only intends to update the Mac Book Air with Intel’s new Kaby Lake processors, and will provide few other improvements.
For example, there’s no indication that Apple will upgrade the now long-of-tooth MacBook Air with higher-resolution screen. That means this model is stuck with a relatively low resolution 1440 x 900 display, which is far from full HD. And these days, full HD is giving way to the near-4K screens that are beginning to emerge.
Likewise, the MacBook Air can be configured with as much as 512 GB of storage, but that’s far behind the 1 TB or more that other ultrabooks can have. While it’s nice for Apple to signal its devotion to the Macintosh, such limited updates as getting a new processor don’t provide a lot of confidence that this Mac model will be around forever.
Of course, Apple has been known to wait seemingly forever between hardware updates. The iPad Air 2 is a good example. That tablet went for two and a half years between updates and even then that update was fairly modest. You can argue that Apple didn’t want to spend the money to update the iPad Air because sales weren’t particularly high—and they weren’t.
But the delay in introducing new and more competitive tablets was all it took for Microsoft’s Surface tablets to gain a foothold in the corporate markets. Then with the dearth of new Apple tablets, Microsoft took the lead among content creators with a series of new devices designed specifically to meet their needs.
Now Microsoft, in an effort to move even farther beyond Apple than it has in the device market, has released the Windows Creator’s Update to appeal to graphic artists and designers who have long favored Apple computers. Despite the fact that there’s little in the Creators Update that necessarily encourages creativity, it’s still helping Microsoft build mindshare at Apple’s expense.
In fact some of this year’s WWDC announcements make it look as if Apple is playing catch up to its competitors. The Siri Speaker is an excellent example. Apple really created the market for intelligent digital assistants when it created Siri.
But since then Amazon and Google took the initiative to build their digital assistants into other devices into other devices besides smartphones. Both companies already have standalone speakers on the market that are control with intelligent assistants.
What’s worse, those intelligent digital assistants outstrip Siri in many ways, although all have their limits. Siri, for example, still completes search requests with, “Here’s what I found on the web,” which sometimes is much less than useful. Perhaps with a new Siri speaker in the lineup, developers will have the incentive to make Siri more effective.
On the other hand, it looks as if Apple is going to announce a new version of the iPad Pro, as we’ve been predicting for a while. This will be a 10.5-inch tablet with thin bezels that will probably replace the 9.7-inch Pro in the lineup. Again, this new form factor will directly involve Apple developers, so announcing it at WWDC makes sense.
While you’ll see new versions of the existing operating systems, including MacOS, iOS, WatchOS and Apple TV platforms, if there was something really different coming, you’d see support for it. Right now it seems that such support isn’t there. This means that you’re also not likely to see a new laptop or an Apple Car or even an Apple Drone, despite speculation to the contrary—at least not in the near future.
Of course you will see some new and useful features in Apple’s software, and the new iPad looks like really nice idea. But by not announcing new versions of major systems such as the MacBook, Apple stands at risk of losing the initiative to some aggressive competitors from Lenovo, Dell and HP. Those vendors aren’t going to give Apple a break and it will look as if Apple is falling even farther behind than it already is.