Apple hopes to spark its developers' enthusiasm

June 7, 2016 by Rex Crum, The Mercury News

Next week, one of the biggest Silicon Valley-area events of the season will occur. No, it's not the potential Game 5 of the NBA Finals, as the Golden State Warriors seek to retain their league title. Nor is it what for many parents will be the start of having their kids at home for two months of summer vacation.

No, on that day, June 13, thousands of Apple fans, programmers and employees will gather in San Francisco for the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC. Things are a little different for the WWDC this year than in the past, as Apple CEO Tim Cook will deliver his keynote address at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium before the rest of the gathering moves over to its usual spot, Moscone West, for the remainder of the conference that runs until June 17.

And while the event is a little more on the technical side for an Apple shindig, that doesn't mean there still isn't a fair degree of speculation going around about just what new thing Cook and Apple will show off to the public.

One thing that Apple is almost certain to give a look at will be iOS 10, the next version of the operating system for the iPhone and iPad. Apple is also expected to preview updates to OS X, its Mac operating system.

One of the biggest changes that many Apple watchers expect to see is a new software development kit, or SDK, for Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant that's part of Apple's iPhones, iPads, the Apple Watch and Apple TV. The kit would allow developers outside of Apple access to Siri to write apps that work with the program.

Steven Milunovich, a UBS analyst that covers Apple, said opening up Siri to developers is "appropriate" given that Google and Facebook have made similar announcements at their own developer conferences, and such a move could spur the kind of reaction Apple saw when it opened up its App Store to other developers.

"A proliferation of third-party apps drove increased iOS users, and in turn, more developers," Milunovich said. "Siri-enabled content could make the iOS platform even more attractive."

That could also potentially help the market for iPhones and iPads. Sales of those gadgets are slipping, and as Apple likes to update iOS once a year, giving developers a look at the next version would grease the wheels for what is expected to be a new iPhone this fall. Apple historically waits to show off its newest iPhone until a company event in September in an effort to drum up enthusiasm for the smartphone ahead of the end-of-the-year holiday shopping season.

And with Amazon's Echo personal assistant gaining a lot of attention of late, there has been speculation that Apple may unveil a similar product of its own for use in the home. What form that device might take is also of interest to developers and conference watchers.

"There's talk that it would be in the Apple TV itself," said Tim Bajarin, president of tech consultancy Creative Strategies. "It's not clear, yet, about what it could look like, but I do think they will do something like this in some way."

Other items that Apple may have up its sleeve are a new, external 5K display screen that connects to a MacBook laptop, and updated versions of programs and apps like Photos and Apple Music. Photos could include many of the features that had been part of Apple's popular iPhoto program, while Apple Music may see a new interface that's easier to use.

Explore further: Annual Apple developers gathering set for June


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