What to expect at Apple's WWDC next week

Apple's annual developer conference is expected to bring new software and hardware. Here's CNET's rundown on what to look for.

San Francisco's Moscone North, where WWDC kicks off next week.
San Francisco's Moscone North, where WWDC kicks off next week. James Martin/CNET

Apple's annual developers conference kicks off next week, and there's no shortage of things to expect in the way of new software and hardware.

Piecing together months' worth of rumors, CNET has compiled a short list of things to expect during Monday's keynote. And of course be sure to tune in Monday morning, when we'll bring you live coverage from the show.

iOS 6
iOS is one of the big reasons WWDC has become a hard ticket to nab by developers. The software, which powers the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and even Apple TV, is also home to the App Store where developers can sell apps. It's typically given a big update once a year, and this year is no different.

As for what to expect, the talk of the town has been an overhauled mapping application. Before your eyes glaze over, the word on that has been that there will be 3D features similar to the ones Google demoed earlier this week.

Perhaps a more exciting iOS 6 rumor is that it will add Siri -- at least for iPad users. A report from 9to5Mac last week made that claim, suggesting Apple was keen on adding the voice assistant software, which so far has been an iPhone 4S exclusive, for owners of Apple's latest tablet.

Other things that could show up are integration with Facebook (something we've heard before ), and a handful of small tweaks to system apps like Safari and e-mail, all based on changes found in Mountain Lion.

When to expect all this is another matter. Given Apple's track record, it's safe to say you won't be able to get it Monday, that is unless you're a developer. Apple tends to run through several beta versions of the software with developers ahead of a public release. There's a good reason for that too: the software often has bugs and last-minute features that need ironing out.

Mountain Lion price, release date
Apple's next big cat was let out of the bag in February as part of an announcement that took most developers by surprise. Developers have had the last four months or so to ready their apps for the new features, some of which require selling through Apple's Mac App Store.

Apple

As a quick recap, Mountain Lion brings a handful of iOS features to Macs , including the aforementioned notes and reminders. It also adds a few other things, like Twitter integration and Apple's Game Center and iMessage services. There's also a new security feature called Gatekeeper, designed to fend off malware by controlling what applications can and cannot be installed.

Expect Apple to give Mountain Lion a price and a release date. For Lion last year, that was $34.99 and an early July arrival.

Updated Macs
Much of Apple's Mac lineup has become a bit long in the tooth, something that's expected to change next week. An alleged parts list that leaked earlier this week suggests Apple's MacBook Pro and Air lines are getting updates, along with the iMac and Mac Pro. Those latter two machines are long overdue for new bits; Apple hasn't updated the iMac since last May, while the Mac Pro has been left untouched since July 2010.

As for what to expect in the way of newness, an obvious addition is Intel's new batch of processors, code-named Ivy Bridge. Those chips began showing up in computers last month, and are not just faster but pack an extra graphics punch as well.

Apple's MacBook Air.
Apple's MacBook Air. Apple

But the real story is in real hardware changes. Apple has long been rumored to be working on MacBook Pros that ditch the optical drive in favor of size . That might sound a lot like the MacBook Air line, but the difference here is that the machines would still have the bevy of ports and plugs, and traditional hard drive storage.

The other rumored change is a move to so-called "Retina Displays" on Macs, beginning with the 15-inch notebook. This is the kind of screen where the pixels are so tightly packed you can't see them when using the product. That feature first cropped up on the iPhone, and has since migrated over to the iPod Touch and iPad. According to one analyst CNET spoke with last month, those screens are already floating around the supply chain .

Evidence of both these things coming to Apple's notebooks -- at least the 15-inch model -- cropped up earlier this week in some leaked box shots ( 1 , 2 ), which have not been confirmed. One other thing on that list was USB 3.0, an addition that makes a lot of sense given that the speedier connection is supported out of the gate with Intel's latest chips.

My CNET colleagues Dan Ackerman and Rich Brown have a much fuller list of updates they expect on the Mac here .

iCloud additions
Apple demoed iCloud for the first time at last year's show, releasing it to the public about four months later. The company is expected to add a few new features to the service's Web site, mainly notes and reminders. Both features appeared in a "beta" and "dev" version of iCloud.com last month, but not on the service's public-facing site. Why those apps would be there is not rocket science: notes and reminders are headed to the Mac with Mountain Lion.

Worth noting is that Apple's MobileMe site and service shut down at the end of the month . This has been in the cards since iCloud -- which is free -- replaced the $99 a year subscription service.

One more thing...
Last but not least is a rumor Apple will roll out a way for developers to build apps for its Apple TV set-top box. That's according to tech blog Boy Genius Report, which floated the idea earlier today . In a separate report last month, the outlet made similar claims , saying Apple was cooking up software to let the Apple TV control third-party components like cable boxes.

All eyes are on Apple, of course, to delve into the TV space with its own device . Adding apps to the Apple TV experience would certainly be a big step in that direction. Just don't expect to see a TV set announced at the show.

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