This coming Monday, June 13 will bring Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference, held in San Francisco, California. The keynote, where a bulk of new software announcements that consumers care about are made, will start at 1 p.m. ET, or 10 a.m. PT where the conference is held. The conference breaks off into smaller sessions after the keynote, where developers get to find out new features they’re being given and hoops they’ll have to jump through to continue developing for iOS.
This WWDC is likely to bring an updated version of Siri, as well as iOS and OS X, but probably no new hardware.
The biggest expected announcement at WWDC will be developer access to Siri, Apple’s virtual personal assistant. As of now, Siri is set apart from most other services in your iPhone. You can’t call an Uber with Siri, you can’t order a pizza, and you really can’t ask for anything more complex than the score of a sports game.
Apple is expected to make Siri smarter in two ways. First, add more core functionality.
Most virtual personal assistants now rely on artificial intelligence, to process what’s being asked, gather the information, and formulate an appropriate response. However, most of the virtual personal assistants are also made by internet companies with considerable public investments in artificial intelligence, like Google and Microsoft. We don’t really know much about any Apple A.I. research.
Researchers who have spoken to Popular Science in the past say they know colleagues at Apple who are working on A.I., but those researchers don’t often publish findings, which is odd for the traditionally collaborative research field. However, acquisitions of startups like Perceptio lead us to believe that there is work being done under the hood. Perceptio focused on using artificial intelligence locally, so data wouldn’t have to be transmitted to company-owned servers. After Apple’s privacy push since the San Bernardino case, limiting the amount of data Apple has access to is probably a priority.
The second expected update would be a Siri Software Development Kit (SDK), which would allow developers to integrate their own apps with Siri. Papa John’s would let you order a pizza straight through your improved virtual assistant, or you could hail an Uber. Developers have been asking for this capability since Siri first arrived on the iPhone, and it’s looking like 2016 is the year that it actually happens.
Siri also could be coming to the Mac. Apple is expected to merge the virtual personal assistant with a range of desktop-based functions like internal searches, says 9to5Apple‘s Mark Gurman. This would potentially replace the current Spotlight feature. Of course, this would be even more incentive for app makers to merge their apps with Siri.
Rumors say that Apple will give a preview of iOS 10, the operating system for their iPhone, which will not be an overhaul in terms of design.
The most impactful update might be the ability to hide apps on the home screen. Lots of users (myself included) have a folder on their home screen for apps made by Apple that they don’t use but cannot delete or hide. For a company who loves streamlined design, Apple seemingly loves control a little bit more, and has not yet acquiesced to users’ requests.
The Photos app might also get an update, with greater ability to write on top of images and draw fun little arrows.
It’s also possible that Apple will update their music offerings, the Music app and iTunes, to enhance the focus on Apple Music, the company’s streaming subscription service, which is now going on a year old. This would be a visual redesign, with the addition of 3D Touch features.
Finally for iOS, Apple could improve Apple Pay, making it work within browsers instead of just on a few of the latest devices. In this way, you could use it to pay for things online without pulling out your phone. Think of it as an alternative to services like PayPal.
We’ll likely see a new desktop operating system, rebranded from OS X to mac OS. This isn’t a huge deal.
What is a big deal would be Siri, as mentioned earlier. Having a persistent virtual personal assistant throughout Apple devices (and maybe synced through iCloud) could fundamentally change the way Apple products are used. (It could also be largely ignored, the way I use Siri now.)
We haven’t heard much more about what the mac OS would bring, so we’ll have to wait to find out more.
A new Apple Watch design or software, a new Macbook Pro with a screen-like replacement for part of the keyboard, and new Apple TV software could also all theoretically be in store for WWDC, though our reading of the rumors indicates these are unlikely additions at this time.
Follow all of our WWDC 2016 coverage here.