Apple's WWDC: What to Expect (Update 1)

Updated from 9:54 a.m. EST to include more analysis on iRadio.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL) is set to hold its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) next week. Since Apple has not released a new product (new iPod Touch notwithstanding) since October 2012, there's increased speculation about what new products, software, and services the technology titan might unveil.

This year the annual conference, which runs from June 10 to 14 in San Francisco's Moscone Center West, will give developers a look at the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 7, as well as its next desktop operating system, OS X.

Rumors have been flying as to what Apple might announce this year. Will Jony Ive, Apple's senior vice president of industrial design, make an appearance on stage? Will Apple showcase its digital wallet solution, something that's been in the works since last year's WWDC?

Here are three items that Apple is expected to reveal at the WWDC next week.

iOS 7

One of the main attractions at WWDC will be Apple's next mobile operating system, iOS 7. The previous mobile OS, iOS 6, had many improvements and features over the previous version, and this update is expected to be a dramatic reimagining of what iOS looks like.

Since Scott Forstall was ousted at Apple, Jony Ive has taken a larger role in developing Apple's software. Ive is expected to make the operating system look much flatter and get rid of the skeuomorphism (making the icons look like real world objects), leading to a more timeless design. This would be a drastic change for iOS and, quite frankly, Apple needs to inject a little bit of life into the OS to give it a new feel.

Some of the new features, aside from a complete redesign, include the upgrade of Apple Maps. Last year, Apple removed Google ( GOOG) Maps as the standard mapping application in its software, sparking much controversy and finger-pointing.

Apple may also be pushing continued integration with social features. Last year, Apple announced a partnership with Facebook ( FB), along with its previous integration of Twitter into iOS 5. CEO Tim Cook has said in the past that Apple doesn't need to own a social network when partnerships will suffice. "We do some things that are social: iMessage, Game Center," Cook said at the D11 conference while noting that Apple would open its API a bit more than it had in the past.

There may also be big changes to the actual operating system itself, especially as it pertains to swiping. This is something that consumers and investors alike will want to keep an eye on because it may provide an entirely new way of using iOS.

Regarding Apple's digital wallet solution, Apple may also choose to integrate Passbook with iTunes and make that a prominent feature in iOS 7. Cook recently said that it's still early days for this tech area, hinting that Apple might have something to offer here. "I think it's in its infancy, Gene Munster ," Cook said, discussing Apple's latest earnings. "I think it's just getting started and just out of the starting block."

MacBook refresh

It's long been rumored that Apple would refresh part of its Mac lineup this year with the MacBook Air likely to see an update.

KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple may update its MacBook computers next week. Kuo previously didn't expect a refresh at the event and given Cook's comments on Apple's latest earnings, it didn't seem as though the company would be offering anything new until September or October.

Kuo says Apple will upgrade the new computers with Intel's ( INTC) Haswell microprocessors, "which are expected to significantly improve battery life, as well as graphics capabilities."

The PC market has been exceptionally weak as tablets continue to dominate market and wallet share. Macs have held up slightly better than the overall PC market with Apple selling 3.95 million Macs in its most recent quarter, down 3% year-over-year.

There has been much speculation that, in addition to the new chipsets which Apple plans to use, the MacBook Air could get Retina Display, Apple's high pixel density screen technology. We'll have to wait and see if the new computers do indeed get Retina Display, or if that's something that may come down the line.


Cook has tried extremely hard in recent months to shift the mindset of Apple as more than just a hardware company, mentioning software and services several times. "Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software and services that we can't wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014," Cook said on Apple's most recent earnings call.

Aside from the aforementioned digital wallet strategy and Maps update, Apple may have a couple other aces up its sleeve for WWDC. There's been speculation about iRadio, as it looks to enter the streaming music business, taking on Pandora ( P) in the process.

Now that Apple has lined up Sony ( SNE), Warner and Universal Music for its iRadio service, an announcement looks more likely than ever. It's expected that Apple will make money off this product by selling advertisements, similar to how Pandora generates the majority of its revenue.

It will be interesting to see whether Apple has any other products or services to unveil at WWDC. In the past, the Cupertino, Calif.-based firm surprised its community of developers with "one more thing," and I don't expect this year to be any different.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York

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