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Apple WWDC 2012 - rumour round up
ALY SONG; Reuters
Monday sees the start of one of the annual highlights of the geek calendar: Apple's WWDC (or 'Worldwide Developer Conference' to regular humans), which runs 11-15th June. It might sound a bit boring but, in fact, it's far from it. The keynote speech on the first day of the event has seen several high-profile announcements over the years - three out of the five iPhones were first unveiled here.
So as the world's media descend on San Francisco, desperate to catch a first glimpse of what shiny new products Apple plans to launch over the coming weeks, expectations are understandably high. The Apple rumour mill is in such a state of excitement it threatens to bring the internet to its knees, crushed under the weight of faked iPhone 5 photos and whispered rumblings of Mini iPads. Read on, as we pull on our armour of cynicism and boldly attempt to sort the wheat from the iChaff.
Even though the iPhone 4S (introduced in October 2011) was only a limited step forward in terms of features, it has been a huge financial success for the $400 billion company and a successor is inevitable; likely to feature a better camera, faster processors, improved voice-recognition, and a larger screen. Many of the internet's most ardent Apple cheerleaders swear blind we'll be seeing it on Monday, but with the 4S still selling well, it's unlikely Apple will announce a new model so soon, with the smart money on an autumn launch.
This one's almost certain; an update to the mobile operating system that powers the iPhone and iPad. iOS 6 is likely to push the usefulness of the iCloud web-based storage alongside a range of new features, including an updated Siri (voice control) for 4S users and a Google-free Maps app. This seems especially likely, given the iPhone application has long lagged behind that found on Google's own Android operating system, which offers features like turn-by-turn GPS directions and cached maps for offline access. Given WWDC's main role as a conference for software developers, the idea of there not being an iOS update to shout about seems inconceivable.
Seven-inch iPad Mini
There's a strong argument for smaller iPad sizes. Now Apple have won the premium tablet war, it's time to chase down smaller targets like the Amazon Kindle. A seven-inch iPad at a reasonable price (with the iPhone and iPad lines in particular, Apple products are largely shedding their reputation of being excessively expensive) could be highly competitive - and give the company a chance to hit back at tablet manufacturers using the rival Android operating system. But it could be a brave step indeed from Apple CEO Tim Cook - his predecessor Steve Jobs having vocally written-off seven-inch tablets a couple of years ago.
No, not the one with Trevor McDonald on it. The *other* iTV - Apple's semi-mythical fully-fledged digital television set. Television is one of the remaining areas of digital media that remain for Apple to conquer. But it would be a brave step for Apple - a fancy television with wi-fi bits would likely leave people unimpressed; Apple also need to revolutionise how the content is broadcast, just as iTunes did with the music industry. While some would like an answer at WWDC, they're likely to be disappointed - just like the original iPhone, the iTV would surely justify having an announcement event all of its own.
The other Apple TV
More likely, however, is an update to the existing Apple TV; a small shiny black box that streams video, music and photos wirelessly from Mac to TV. Apple has previously described the product as a 'hobby' but with consistently good sales (and given that at heart WWDC is a conference for people who design apps) some have speculated that the Apple TV could even gain its own App Store; giving users more reason to justify buying one, and potentially far increasing its usefulness through the efforts of app developers.
The first half of 2012 has been remarkably empty of updates to Apple's desktop and laptop lines, partly caused by a delay in Intel's latest generation of processor chips, code-named Ivy Bridge. It seems fairly likely that Apple will launch improved versions of its MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Mac Mini, and maybe even iMac lines - all with processor, storage, and video card upgrades. But the juiciest rumour is that their laptop ranges (and in particular the MacBook Pros) will finally getting Retina displays as already seen on recent iPhones and the newest iPad - promising a display twice the resolution (and therefore a much sharper image) than the current line.
OSX Mountain Lion
An easy one to end on. The latest update of the Mac operating system, known as OSX, was announced back in February and, continuing the traditional animal theme, is to be known as Mountain Lion. Most of its features have already been revealed, but it's always possible they'll have held some things back from the early releases. We know Mountain Lion borrows heavily from Apple's iOS operating system (with features like Notification Center, Reminders, Notes, and Twitter integration), so perhaps a few other iOS-esque bonuses might be revealed as well. A desktop version of Siri, anyone?