Apple's (AAPL) Worldwide Developers Conference is typically reserved for software releases, but the tech giant could also have some hardware surprises up its sleeve.
The annual event, which runs from June 5-9, kicks off on Monday with a keynote speech from CEO Tim Cook, where he'll likely unveil Apple's latest iPhone operating system iOS 11. Apple's live stream of WWDC can be viewed on devices with its Safari web browser, Windows 10-enabled PCs and via Apple TV, starting at 1:00 PM Eastern on Monday.
The rumor mill has been churning out tons of theories about what the new iOS 11 might include, such as a "dark mode," which would replace the white background for a black one at night. Other expected software updates include a new version of Apple Music that focuses on video (largely to showcase its upcoming original content offerings), an Apple Pay update that allows peer-to-peer mobile payments and new augmented reality features. WWDC 2017 is also expected to bring updates to the macOS, watchOS and tvOS.
Most of the buzz has been around Apple announcing improvements to its Siri voice assistant. At last year's WWDC, Apple announced that Siri would be opened up to third-party developers, enabling Siri to complete more complex tasks. Drexel Hamilton analyst Brian White said he expects Apple to announce even more enhanced capabilities for Siri at this year's event.
When it comes to hardware, Apple diehards are hoping that Cook will refresh the company's line of MacBooks and iPads, as well as release a wholly new product -- a Siri-powered digital assistant. It's unclear whether any of these product announcements will come to fruition, but Apple has been known to make product launches at WWDC events in the past: The very first Mac Pro, second generation iPhone, the 13-inch MacBook Pro, the iPhone 4 and the first retina display-equipped MacBook were all announced at WWDC.
Editors' pick: Originally published June 2.
Don't expect any releases of new iPhones, Apple Watches or AR and VR features, as those are all likely to come at Apple's upcoming September event. Instead, rumors have circulated that Apple will incorporate new, high-powered Kaby Lake processor chips from Intel (INTC) into all three of its MacBook models, which include the MacBook Pro, the 12-inch MacBook and the 13-inch MacBook Air. Others speculate that a 10.5-inch iPad Pro could be in the works, building on its existing range of 9.7-inch and 12.9-inch iPad models.
"Given that Apple did not host a special event this year, we would not be surprised to hear about select hardware product updates," White noted. "There have been a slew of media reports pointing to updates around the MacBook family and we believe this is a high probability event."
White added that the potential unveiling of a 10.5-inch iPad Pro is "plausible but not a given," while an Amazon (AMZN) Echo-like home assistant has an even lower probability of occurring. Another analyst, Loup Venture's Gene Munster, estimated there's a 50% chance that Apple will update its MacBook Pros. A 10.5-inch iPad would be "a bit of a head scratcher," Munster said, so he assigned a 10% chance that Apple will release another iPad Pro.
The rumored iPad and MacBook updates come at a time when Apple continues to deal with significant headwinds in both hardware categories. Apple's most recent earnings showed double-digit quarter-over-quarter declines in iPad and MacBook sales. The number of iPad units sold fell 22%, while revenue slumped 19%. As for MacBooks, unit sales dropped 32% quarter-over-quarter and total sales slid 30%. Year on year, however, MacBook revenue jumped 14%, thanks in part to the success of Apple's MacBook Pros, Cook said on the company's earnings call. iPad sales were gloomier, having declined 12% year-over-year.
It's no secret that the laptop and tablet markets have taken a hit industry-wide. Apple has been trying to drum up new interest in its laptops for a while now, having released the MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar last October, albeit to mixed reception. Apple seems to be similarly optimistic about the iPad, as Cook recently said he's "still very bullish on the iPad."
"I still feel very optimistic about where we can take the product," Cook said on the company's fiscal first-quarter earnings call. "I see a lot of good things and hope for better results."
Shares of Apple closed higher 1.4% to $155.45 on Friday and are up 34.2% so far this year.
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