WWDC 08 predictions

Unfortunately I'm not attending WWDC this year. I'm not currently working on or immediately planning an iPhone app, and don't expect anything much new for Mac OS X, so it wasn't worthwhile to go this year. Maybe next year?

I'm sure I will write some iPhone apps in the future, though; it's an exciting platform, and I'm really looking forward to getting a new iPhone once they're released.

But speaking of releases, time for some prognostication.

The leading expectation for WWDC 08, of course, is the 3G iPhone with version 2.0 software and the software development kit (SDK). I'm confident that this will eventuate. I'm not sure whether or not the new iPhone model will be immediately available, or just announced for pre-order and delivery later in the month (or even later). If I had to guess, I'd say it'd be released no later than the end of June... but I'm hoping for immediate availability.

There are also questions of whether or not the updated iPhone will be thinner or thicker than the current model, what memory size it'll have, if there will be multiple models (perhaps a cheaper 2.5G and more expensive 3G model), coloring, form-factor, etc. I would guess thinner, double the memory, and only a 3G model (with a preference to switch between 2.5G and 3G).

Another rumor that has been popular recently is an unusual update to Mac OS X to version 10.6, code-named "Snow Leopard". This would be unusual in that it is supposed to not include any major new features, but just concentrate on tidying up the code base, improving performance and stability... stuff that is normally the realm of bug-fix releases.

But it is supposed to also drop PowerPC support. This would make a certain amount of sense — it'd allow throwing away lots of code, and simplifying many things. But it might be a little too soon for such a drastic change; there are still plenty of perfectly good PowerPC machines out there (I have a few in active use).

There have been rumors that 10.6 would change Carbon support in some way. Some thought it would drop Carbon entirely, or Carbon UI, but I don't think that is realistic. There are still many Carbon apps out there, including big ones from Adobe, Microsoft, and others. What I could see happening, though, is (as Gruber says) adding Objective-C wrappers around framework calls that are only available via Carbon currently. That would certainly be very welcome; as a Cocoa programmer, it can be mildly distasteful to have to drop down to Carbon to implement some functionality, though it's certainly not the end of the world.

Another popular rumor is that .Mac will be overhauled and renamed, perhaps as "Mobile Me". This has been fueled by people noticing that me.com is owned by Apple, and seeing the text "Mobile Me" referenced in resources. This does seem pretty conclusive, though I can't say I particularly like the name. On the other hand, .Mac has always been a silly name, so Mobile Me isn't any worse. It does certainly make sense to rebrand it to avoid reference to Macs, now that Apple has a major non-Mac platform in the iPhone.

Finally, some people are predicting a new multi-touch device, perhaps some sort of tablet or Newton-like form factor. I'd certainly welcome that, but am rather skeptical that such a device would be introduced now. I'm sure Apple has a few such devices in development, even if only as experimental projects, but introducing one now would distract from the new iPhone, unless it were positioned as a "super-iPod touch" kind of device, running the mobile OS X. I would really like to see a multi-touch Mac tablet... but that seems even less likely at this stage.

I would be very surprised if any Mac hardware were announced. WWDC isn't traditionally the venue for hardware releases; last year Apple released updated MacBook Pros a week before WWDC, rather than waiting a week. At its core, WWDC is for developers, talking about the OS. That's the way it should be.

It'll certainly be very interesting to see what is announced. Maybe Steve will surprise us all. Let's all play WWDC bingo! The real surprise would be if Steve doesn't say "boom". :)