iOS 7, OS X 10.9, MacBooks And iRadio: What To Expect At WWDC 2013

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Apple is set to deliver its WWDC keynote address on Monday June 10, and there are bound to be a lot of new things revealed on that day. The exact details remain shrouded in mystery, but as with every major Apple event, there have been lots of leaks and rumors leading up to this one, so we can at least sketch in broad terms what we’re likely in for next week.

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I’m leading with Apple’s streaming music service, which is probably freshest in most people’s minds if you’ve been following the news today. That’s because the service (which may or may not actually be called “iRadio”) is now likely a done deal with all the major record labels, which should make it possible for Apple to preview it next week, though we’ll likely have to wait a few months for a general consumer release.

Apple’s iRadio service is supposedly a lot like Pandora, but with some added tricks, like the ability to pull from a user’s existing music library in order to offer up better, more personalized streaming content. The service is similar to Genius, according to 9to5Mac, but uses tracks from the entire iTunes catalog, not just those in a user’s library, and offers an easy method for iOS users to simply purchase tracks they hear with a tap directly through iTunes. Typically, DMCA streaming radio does not permit track skipping, but this may be a feature of iRadio, depending on how Apple’s negotiations with labels went.

iRadio will be free, if reports prove true, and instead make revenue for Apple and its music partners via advertising. That will likely take the form of audio ads that come up in the radio stream after a certain amount of tracks are played, according to reports this week from Bloomberg.

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Apple’s iOS 7 has been the talk of the town for a while now, ever since reports back in early April suggested that Apple was planning a significant overhaul of the user interface, and that has been echoed in numerous reports ever since, including more recent information brought to light by 9to5Mac. Apple’s design guru Jony Ive is said to be taking the helm of the redesign, which is interesting because he’s an industrial designer, not a graphic designer, but the result is said to be a scaled back, simplified UI that embraces flat design principles in favor of textures that mimic real-world materials like canvas and aluminum. A new picture of the iOS 7 banner at Moscone West that surfaced today suggests we’ll see something clean and simple.

For the system itself, Apple is said to be including additional hooks for social network sign-in, including Flickr for photos and Vimeo for video, each of which will be accessible via the Settings app in the same way that Twitter and Facebook are currently available. Another new feature could be AirDrop, Apple’s easy file-sharing service introduced recently to OS X. That could be an amazing way to move files easily between desktops and mobile devices, especially for users who otherwise might have to resort to email or something.

Apple CEO Tim Cook also suggested that we’d see Apple begin to open up more APIs for developers to take more advantage of additional system and device features, but the extent of just how far things will go isn’t known, though we’ve already suggested some possible areas, including Siri.

We’ve also heard from a source that Apple might introduce blocking features for some of its own on-device services including iMessage and the phone app. This is something Apple has already secured a patent related to, too. It’s not something we’ve been able to reliably confirm, but it’s a possibility for either this version of iOS or one in the future, and it’s something that would definitely go further in terms of making iMessage feel like a proper competitor to third-party products in the same vein.

We’ll see this released as a beta for developers at WWDC, with a full launch likely to follow in fall alongside new iPhone (and potentially iPad) hardware.

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This will be named after a big cat, but we don’t know which one yet. The changes we’ve seen rumored so far include mostly minor tweaks, like a new fullscreen mode that doesn’t render other displays completely useless, and tabs and tags added to Finder to make it more complete. For a preview of what this new Finder might look like, check out advanced 3rd-party Finder replacements like Path Finder. These are minor changes that might only be appreciated by a small subset of OS X users, but those who do appreciate them will find them very welcome.

Other changes to OS X include stuff under the hood for developers that will allow them to exploit some of these new power user features, and some reports indicate that Apple wants to bring more iOS into OS X, including via app multi-tasking and switching features that concentrate more on allowing apps to move into the background and take up fewer system resources.

We’ll likely see OS X 10.9 arrive later in the year, but developers stand a good chance of getting access at the WWDC event, possibly immediately following the keynote.

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Apple isn’t supposed to be doing much in the way of hardware, but we’ve seen lots of reports that suggest at least some Macs will get updates at the event. The MacBook Pro with Retina display and the MacBook Air are two specific example, and there’s a chance (albeit a more remote one) that says we’ll see a new Mac Pro unveiled at WWDC, too.

New Mac notebooks are almost a sure thing, with retail sources reporting stock shortages, and 9to5Mac saying there are new SKUs showing up indicating at least refreshed MacBook Airs on the way. The new Macs will likely all boast Haswell chips from Intel, as that company announced the new processors just this week, and other hardware upgrades could include full-HD FaceTime webcams, dual-mics on the MacBook Air to match those introduced in the Retina MacBook Pro, and possibly faster Wi-Fi chips that support new breakneck 802.11ac  networking speeds. If we do see those speeds added, it’s likely we’ll see Apple’s routers also updated to support that, too.

The new Mac Pro is a more remote possibility, but Apple has been doing a lot to talk up recently, alongside reports that we’ll see it made in the U.S. as well. Apple has confirmed it will be making a Mac in the U.S. this year, but it hasn’t said it’ll definitely be the Mac Pro. Still, the machine has languished for a long time now, receiving no significant update since July 2010 (it got a processor bump in 2012, but mostly because the part it was using before was probably being discontinued).

As for availability, expect new Macs to go on sale later in June if they are announced at WWDC, as Apple usually spreads out the ship date a little from the event itself when it debuts new Macs at these events.

One More Thing

Apple could announce all of the above, or just some of it at WWDC next week, but it probably still has at least one or two surprises up its sleeve. Will we see a new iPhone? Indications are pretty strong that we won’t. But still be sure to stay tuned as we bring you live coverage of everything they do announce, and hands-on impressions of new software and hardware they make available.