WWDC 2011 Predictions: Here Comes iCloud, But What Else?

Apple made the bold move of pre-announcing its WWDC offerings this week, perhaps to curb anticipation over the lack of hardware, or maybe to ensure they bowl everyone over with an unexpected move. Regardless, here are our predictions:

Will you be able to Find My Mac in Lion?

Not only does it make sense in the wake of the MacBook thief brouhaha, but mentions of Find My Mac were located in the latest developer build of OS X Lion.

Probability: 100%

Will Lion be downloadable through the Mac App Store?

Apple already offers some of its key software through the Mac App Store, with prices lower than the CD formats. When they released Snow Leopard for $US29 they doubled their sales of Leopard, which would make them awfully keen to replicate that success again. And with Apple gradually phasing out optical drives – hello, MacBook Air! – what better to nudge consumers that direction than their new Lion king?

Probability: 80%

Will there be new notifications in iOS 5?

The predominant complaint among iPhone users? A notifications system that should (and could) be so much better. iOS 5 might bring along a new style of message notifications for emails, texts, missed calls, Twitter mentions… you have it. We could see some kind of curtain like with Android, or a window similar to what the Boxcar app offers.

Probability: 90%

Will iOS 5 resemble OS X with widgets?

Organize your apps into folders all you want, but there’s no disputing that it’s jolly difficult finding Simplenote when you need it. Widgets make the more crucial apps larger and easier to find, and like we’ve seen with Android, actually allow you to interact with the app without having to actually open it.

Probability: 60%

Will iOS be more socially integrated?

There’s been some talk that iOS 5 will borrow from Windows Phone Mango, and actually bake Twitter right into it. This could be why Twitter launched its own photo-sharing service early. If true, expect Twitter usage to rise dramatically.

Probability: 90%

Will iOS 5 allow for wireless syncing?

Doesn’t it seem so terribly un-2011 that you need to plug your iPhone into a computer, to update to the latest software? After all, Android users have been receiving OTA updates since day one. The Apple TV can do it, so what’s stopping the iPhone – the networks? Updates over Wi-Fi should be the least offered to us – we’re sure Apple’s bartering with the networks to exclude iOS updates from a customer’s monthly data plan. Meanwhile, back-ups can be made to the iCloud. Only hiccup; wireless syncing is still a sloooow process, and there’s nothing Apple hates more than frustrated consumers.

Probability: 50%

Will iCloud only let you stream MP3s you bought from iTunes?

Word on the street says that some of the record labels are antsy about customers streaming their tracks from the cloud. Universal Records in particular. Apple has a vested interest in protecting those relationships, so may only allow customers to store and stream tracks that could be proven as having been acquired legally – through iTunes. Sure, they might include support for non-iTunes acquired tracks at a later date, but that’ll cost you, no doubt.

Probability: 70%

Will iCloud be free for the first year?

OS X Lion is said to be downloadable through the Mac App Store, with iCloud latching on as a free feature. What’s a better way to hook people in, than offering a free taste first? Especially if there’s a pricier, more premium streaming options that Apple will offer alongside it. After that, reports indicate a $US25/year fee.

Probability: 70%

Will MobileMe disappear?

At $119 for an annual subscription, MobileMe is a hard sell for a few syncing options and fancy Find My iPhone feature. Especially since iCloud will presumably be capable of all that and more. There’s some name brand value in keeping MobileMe around, but folding it into iCloud would be the best way to avoid confusion – and forget the mistakes of one of Apple’s least popular offerings.

Probability: 50%

Will a new educational discount for iPads be announced?

Apple already offers generous discounts and freebies for students and employees in the education field, but will they try and angle the iPad as being the perfect learning tool, by offering $US200 off the price of one when bought with a Mac?

Probability: 30%

Will Time Capsule be updated?

Want to know the best way to predict impending new products? Keep an eye on stock shortages. There have been reports that Apple Stores running low on Time Capsules, which – last updated in 2009 – are coincidentally due for a refresh. With the upcoming iCloud service, it makes sense to cache all that stored media into the cloud while syncing Time Machine backups, too. It might be overkill, backing up your back-up, but given the technology…

Probability: 70%

Will we see new Airport routers?

Like the Time Capsule, Apple Stores also have low stock of the Airport Express and Extreme. As the cheaper Express hasn’t been refreshed since March 2008, we are definitely owed a new one – or perhaps a discontinuation, in favour for a cheaper Airport Extreme.

Probability: 60%

Will the Airport Extreme have AirPlay support added?

With $80 between them, the Extreme needs a more obvious reason to buy it over the Express. Adding AirPlay functionality for whizzing video and photos around the house (a step up from the current AirTunes, which only does music) would suddenly make that $229 price tag more palatable. Especially if it pulls from the iCloud.

Probability: 50%

Will they announce new MacBook Airs?

Released last November, the two Air sizes are already outdated. They’re missing Sandy Bridge processors for starters, but Apple’s new connectivity plaything: Thunderbolt. They could also do with some new storage capacities, too.

Probability: 20% (for WWDC, anyway)

Will there be a new iPhone?

Call it the iPhone 5 or the iPhone 4S, Apple’s fifth-generation iPhone is due an announcement… only this year, it’s not expected until September. What, you mean to tell us that the white iPhone 4’s launch doesn’t count as a new phone? After all we’ve been through?

Probability: 1%

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