What a difference a year makes. 2008 saw the introduction of iPhone SDK, iPhone 2.0, App Store, MobileMe, and iPhone 3G, the latter two of which were announced at WWDC and prefaced a worldwide rollout that broke Apple's conservative goal of shipping 10 million units.
We've seen iPhone 3.0, the changes to the SDK and App Store, and now on the eve of WWDC 2009 it's time to think about what else we just might see one year later, and -- according to Apple -- lightyears ahead.
No one knows exactly what Apple is going to do. They make the cold war Kremlin seem positively chatty by comparison. That doesn't mean we don't have rough ideas. See, Apple likes their patterns. They like showing iPods off in the fall, for example, and they seem to like June for showing off the iPhone. So, based on WWDC 2008, the iPhone 3.0 Sneak Preview, and the more consistent rumors since then, we might be able to draw some educated guesses as to how WWDC 2009 might play out...
Last year Great Balls of Fire filled Moscone Center and Steve Jobs took center stage. This year Phil Schiller, Vice President of Marketing, will be headlining the keynote, as he did the last -- and final -- Apple keynote at Macworld in January.
Jobs announced a sellout last year. They had a faster one this year. Schiller will no doubt mention that, and cover the WWDC session housekeeping before the fun begins.
Whether Schiller elaborates on the "three legs" of Apple's business - Mac, iPod, and iPhone -- before singling out the iPhone, or just singles it out right away, the predominance of iPhone over Mac signage seen so far, and Snow Leopard being more of an internal update to Mac OS X, leads us to think this year will be every bit as iPhone-centric, if not more.
Special caveat: if the outside rumors are true, if Apple intends to delay announcement of new iPhone hardware for an event later in the summer, when Steve Jobs is back in the saddle, we expect Schiller will start off by saying something to the effect of "we're not here to discuss iPhone hardware today" so as to immediately re-set expectations. To not mention it in advance, and then not announce it, would blot out anything else Apple could say.
We don't expect that, however. Apple has shown they're no longer a one-man-show. They don't need to wait for Steve Jobs to return. So, we expect no early re-set. We expect Schiller to jump right into--
iPhone 3.0 Overview
iPhone 3.0 will no doubt lead off the show. We'll get the perfunctory State of the iPhone Development address. The numbers should be staggering. 4,000 developers had been admitted this time last year. No doubt that has been eclipsed by a wide, wide margin. Same for App Store numbers. 47,000+ apps, 1.x billion downloads. We'll hear just how big Apple's monster has become.
A rundown of the OS details, likely similar to the iPhone 3.0 Sneak Preview event, will kick us off. It's a fairly massive list, so hopefully Schiller will stick to the highlights.
Last year, Exchange and Enterprise were a large part of iPhone 2.0, and Jobs spent a good bit of time on showing off Fortune 500 and higher education participation in the beta. If Apple is serious about continuing their push into IT, maybe we'll get another video. We're guessing we don't. The SDK peripheral access via USB tether and Bluetooth looks to fill that role this year, so just like we saw blood pressure and diabetes apps and accessories at the iPhone 3.0 Sneak Preview event, we expect to see even more impressive demoes of that kind of functionality at WWDC.
Cue Scott Forstall, Vice President of iPhone Software. Forstall handled the SDK element of WWDC 2008, and the lion's share of iPhone 3.0 software at the Sneak Preview event, and he's likely to do the same at WWDC 2009. No doubt his technical overview will "blow us away".
1000 new APIs, and developer demos, June's show should again repeat quite a bit of March's show, though we beg you, Apple -- please don't draw the demos out as long as you have the last few times. Please.
Still, Push Notification, in-app purchases, P2P gaming, and the aforementioned peripheral access will take up more than their fair chunk of time.
Speaking of Push Notification, Forstall spoke about it a year ago -- introduced it to us in fact, and promised it for September 2008 release. It was delayed until 3.0, when we saw it again at March's Sneak Preview. He's spent time poking fun at other platforms' multitasking solutions, their management complexity and battery drain. We're not sure he'll do that again now, in a post Palm Pre "Cards" smartphone space, but if any company is ballsy enough to blaze ahead with that strategy, it's Apple. Still, we expect to see the final, polished version of Push Notification, nothing more. No multi-tasking surprises, at least not yet.
iPhone 3.0 New Features
It's possible minor additions, things that Apple doesn't believe make a major impact on 3rd party developers, such as further tweaks to the built-in apps could be shown (like last year's landscape scientific calculator). Apple showed an awful lot of that kind of tweak back in March, however, and they certainly have enough on their plate already. So we don't expect anything earth shattering. Again, at least not yet.
By the same token, while we'd love to hear Apple tell us they're solving the App Store review problem, making more transparent processes and guidelines, improving the Ad Hoc and beta testing process, we've learned a little helplessness in that regard. (Surprise us Apple!)
iPhone 3.0 Release date
Apple will announce it, of course, but there will be a couple of factors at play. If they're planning to release the OS update independently from any hardware update, they'll likely give us the date right away. If, however, they plan on once again doing a coordinated release, they'll make us wait until the end of the keynote.
Our bet? Sooner rather than later. Coordinate release last year hammered Apple hard. Maybe they could handle it this year, maybe not. But they don't need to. With iPhone 2G 24-month subscription accounting period ending June 29, with Palm Pre getting a lot of technorati attention, Apple can release 3.0 either after the keynote or right after WWDC and then update to 3.0.1 or 3.1 later in the summer.
Phil Schiller is the star of the show this time, but he was relegated to a supporting role last year. And that role was introducing MobileMe. Could we see a MobileMe 2.0? We know developers have found strings for a new MobileMe WebApp, Find My iPhone in the 3.0 firmware, so if nothing else we should see that. With most of its growing pains behind it, however, there's certainly room for Apple to begin expanding the service.
Regular updates via the MobileMe News blog for things like File Sharing (which were actually promised at launch but not delivered until later) suggest that Apple might be content simply rolling out new features as they finish them. If that's the case, while we won't see a whole new version -- certainly nothing as ambitious as Google Wave -- we could see whatever other new features are ready, or will be made ready during the summer.
Notes sync, given the new iPhone 3.0 desktop functionality, certainly makes sense. We'd love photo sync as well. Task sync would really round things out, but unless a built in task app is one of those extra new features, there's little chance of that this time. Online backup would be competitive with Microsoft's MyPhone and Palm's new Pre features. Server-side calendar subscriptions would also mirror on-device functionality, and server-side email rules would just make life so much easier, as would the ability to pull in other email services, a la Gmail. Speaking of which, Apple has already integrated Google into iCal and Address Book on the Mac, why not in MobileMe? And with FaceBook and Flickr living in iLife, could they also find some form of integration into MobileMe?
Heh. We doubt it. Our prediction is minor, evolutionary improvements for MobileMe, with one or two new features like Find My Phone thrown in for good measure.
Last year Steve Jobs presented a list of what the iPhone still needed. 1st on that list was 3G, followed by Enterprise support, 3rd party apps, and more countries. The middle two had already been addressed earlier in the keynote, and since then both 3G and a worldwide rollout have come to pass. Sort of. There's still the small matter of China.
It's a big deal in terms of market, and rumors have persisted about Apple trying to make deals with China Mobile and China Unicom, and even making a special Chinese CDMA iPhone to better fit that market's needs. They may do just that, but ultimately Apple is a US company and WWDC is a US show, so while it may get a mention, it won't be the main event. The third generation iPhone will be.
Third Generation iPhone
We predicted an iPhone HD back in October. Turns out we're getting a Zune HD instead. (Hey, maybe next year?). What Apple looks to be focusing on this year is an iPhone with video. And a fast iPhone at that.
Consistent rumors point to speed. Faster CPU, more RAM, faster 3.5G or 3.75G and 802.11n Wi-Fi networking. And a 3.2 inch, auto-focusing, video-recording camera in front of it.
If last year's model was named iPhone 3G to highlight last year's killer feature, iPhone video, as many rumors are now suggesting, could certainly highlight this year's.
The casing could see cosmetic changes, the digital compass could get some demo time, but shooting video, editing video, and sharing video -- all of which have been found in the 3.0 firmware screens, will be the star of the show.
And like with web browsing in 2007 and apps in 2008, Apple will bring ultra-mobile video production and publishing to the masses in 2009.
If they can take a page from iMovie and include direct upload not only to MobileMe but to YouTube as well -- well, the next set of TV commercials have just written themselves, haven't they?
(This is also where we'll see those previously undisclosed iPhone 3.0 features, of course).
It will be Phil Schiller pulling it from his pocket this year, not Steve Jobs. Sure, we'd love Jobs to be the "one more thing..." that comes on stage, triumphantly returning, iPhone video in hand. We'd love for a special iChat Mobile demonstration with Steve Jobs on the other end. Heck, we'd settle for hearing Steve Jobs over the phone or being sent a video clip while on the phone... Anything.
But realistically Apple has always said "end of June", and if Steve Jobs looks anything less than Greek god-like, history shows Apple takes a stock hit.
So, yeah, Phil Schiller will be waving the new iPhone high over Moscone, going over the battery details (please let John Gruber's 15-20% bump in battery life be correct), doing the demos, and announcing the price...
Pricing and Availability
Apple was aggressive last year in hitting $199/$299. Given the current competitive landscape, we can't see them being anything other than the same this year. You'll get more iPhone for your money, but it will cost the same money. $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB (given the availability of the double-density NAND Flash chips of course -- with Palm Pre only coming in at 8GB, Apple may think video alone is enough until component costs are sufficiently low).
The $99 iPhone? That'll be the iPhone 3G, on clearance, while supplies last.
Color will stay the same as well. No aluminum unibody iPhones this year.
Availability... we're hoping the same as last year -- as close to simultaneous release in all major markets as possible (especially Canada!).
Release Date Take III
Tomorrow just sounds too soon to us. If it really was going to be in Apple stores before the keynote, we'd have expected to see some leaks by now -- mysterious packages arriving, back store pictures, etc.
FCC clearance will no doubt be announced as quickly as possible (it was same day as WWDC last year), and while it's possible online ordering or even shipping to Apple Stores could be announced immediately, there's one huge reason we doubt it:
The iPhone is a two-part show, Apple and carrier. AT&T, and other carriers, will need to announce MMS plans and tethering plans. They'll have to announce upgrade paths for users still on contract for iPhone 3G. Unless AT&T is up on stage with Apple at WWDC and announces everything with crystal clarity right away, it'll be a customer support nightmare.
No, we think Apple will announce the date, but that the date will be some reasonable period of time after WWDC. Maybe a week, maybe a month like last year.
Unless Apple has secretly been shipping over new internals in iPhone 3G casings for a while now, they'll need to fill the channel and organize a huge, splashy launch just like they did last year and the year before.
June 26 would be close to the 2 year anniversary. July 10 to the 3G anniversary.
We'll take a risk and go for June 26.
The only thing we don't know is if we'll see a new ad for it to close out the show. Last year they shut down the flagship Apple Store to film one. This year, nothing so obvious. We hope so, it's a very Apple thing to do.
So that's it. That's our predictions for how the WWDC 2009 keynote will roll out tomorrow. Now all that's left is for us to watch tomorrow and find out!