Will it be new iPads, MacBooks or the long-awaited and much anticipated debut of the mythical iWatch? New products with the Intel Haswell processor architecture? Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference opens in San Francisco's Moscone Center this Monday with 5,000 attendees, including developer partners who will help Apple maximize the potential of its next-generation iOS mobile operating system and OS X desktop and MacBook operating system.
The WWDC keynote is generally an opportunity for Apple's top execs to showcase their Next Big Thing. The event shifted about 10 years ago from highlighting software to debuting hardware, such as the newest versions of the iPhone, now Apple's biggest moneymaker.
iRadio's Big Moment?
This year's WWDC, which runs June 10-14, comes amid reports that Apple has signed an agreement with Sony Music that could pave the way for its music streaming service. Likely to be called iRadio, which could compete with industry leaders such as Pandora, Spotify and IHeartRadio. The deal, reported by AllThingsD, a division of The Wall Street Journal, could be confirmed in detail at WWDC.
Sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity told AllThingsD the service, like Pandora, would be free to listeners and supported by ad revenue. Other services charge a premium for uninterrupted music. But Apple could see another benefit in driving people to download more of their favorite songs for replay at will via iTunes. Apple also benefits by adding value that drives loyalty to the iOS platform to prevent it from losing market share to rivals.
"The industry as a whole is expecting product portfolio refresh which is not just 'thinner, lighter and beautiful' in terms of hardware with every iteration," industry analyst Neil Shah of Current Analysis told us. "But also, have a fresher and more interactive User Interface coupled with tightly integrated cloud and software services."
Adding value to the interface "should help Apple to rekindle some stickiness though still playing catch up with competing platforms in the software and services space. Basically, Apple needs to reignite the 'cool quotient' by revamping its aging UI with the iOS7 update as it is losing its appeal against fresher Windows Phone or fast-evolving Android UI."
Gearing Up for the Fall
Shah said Strategy Analytics expects Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple to continue making big moves into the services space since iTunes, once a novelty, now faces so much competition from streaming.
"Additionally, a lot of under-the-hood software changes are expected not only for consumers but for as well," he added. "We might see Apple adding newer capabilities, from cloud-based sharing to security in order to make iOS devices more enterprise friendly."
And, with the back-to-school buying push only a few months away, expect Apple to refresh both its tablet and PC lineup, laying the software foundation for future holiday-season launches, Shah said.