Apple's (AAPL) annual Worldwide Developers Conference finally rolls in on Monday, and investors will be paying close attention to every sign and every word from company officials. As anticipation built for the conference over the past few weeks, the talk about what Apple may reveal, and what it may not, has only gathered pace. The company will give some sneak peeks and long-awaited answers over the five-day event. But what should you be looking out for? Based on the buzz from several sources over the past few weeks, here's a quick cheat sheet to the likely talking points at WWDC.
Users have anxiously awaited an update to Apple's computer line for a good two years, and analysts and suppliers have taken note.But has Apple? Yes, if the buzz preceding the event is accurate. Reports say Apple is likely to debut a new MacBook Pro that is thinner, but more powerful, and flaunts a high-resolution retina display. There is also the possibility of a new iMac desktop as well as updated 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Airs. Intel’s (INTC) new Ivy Bridge processors are expected to be incorporated into all three varieties, with the MacBook Pro also getting USB 3.0 ports and upgraded graphics capabilities.
If the hardware makes a pop, can software be far behind? Apple unexpectedly released a preview of its new operating system, OS X Mountain Lion, to its developer community in February and is widely believed to be unveiling other new features at its conference. Word is that the software will borrow several features from Apple's iOS mobile operating system, including improved iCloud integration, a game center, a messages platform and a notification center.
Apple's mobile software is not expected to launch before this fall, but developers may get a preview at the conference. Many of the 5,000 developers in attendance want to know more about building for the new operating system, whenever it does launch. If a software preview comes, it'll also carry hints about possible changes in the highly anticipated iPhone 5. But don’t expect too many details; Apple is known well for secrecy and is not going to give away much before its famous hardware launch.
One of the most talked about developments in the past few days has been the possibility of Apple doing away with Google Maps with the launch of iOS 6. The WWDC, then, will be a good place for the company to reveal its rumored new in-house maps and navigation app. Word is that Apple's maps systems will include an impressive 3D feature and turn-by-turn navigation instructions native to iOS. With Google (GOOG) releasing a fancy update to its own maps application this week, Apple will have to have something special.
Since its launch with the iPhone 4S last fall, Siri has always been branded by Apple as a product in beta. It's likely that the voice-enabled personal assistant, which has attracted its share of controversies and lawsuits in the months since, will get more features and improvements at the conference. There may be sessions to let developers know how to better integrate Siri into their third-party apps. It is also expected that Siri will come to theiPad with iOS 6, so look out for hints regarding that.