What will Apple announce at WWDC06? There will no doubt be some surprises, but here are some well known inevitabilities, some reasonable possibilities for new apps, new UI, and new hardware, and a few commonly repeated ideas that - sorry - have no chance!
Known Inevitabilities
First and most obviously, Apple will finish features previewed or suggested in Tiger. Here's a list of things that are known:
Quartz 2D Extreme will provide hardware accelerated 2D drawing, speeding the display of everything on the screen. Apple already delivered 3D acceleration, but had only finished Quartz 2D, the basic replacement to Classic Mac QuickDraw, in Tiger. By offloading more drawing functions to the graphics card, performance increases overall.
Resolution independence enables users to set a resolution multiplier to make windows and icons appear larger or smaller at the same resolution. This feature allows use of higher resolution screens with denser pixels, without making the interface items too small.
Apple included initial elements of Resolution independence in Tiger, but didn’t expose the technology for users. The Quartz Debug app included in Tiger’s Developer Tools includes a preview for testing purposes.
This is different than simply bumping up the size of text or window controls; it requires support from developers, because much of the custom UI in an app is based on bitmap graphics, not vectors. Resolution independence would be easier to pull off if Apple also announces an increased use of vectors to draw icons and interface elements. Think: Vectorized NIBs.
Corrupt Preference File Detection and Quarantine. When an app crashes on launch, offer to restart it using a clean preference file. I've seen Apple accidently demonstrate this feature, and it’s a common problem, so I can't imagine they will continue to sit on their hands with it any further.
Better Font Management. Font Book was a quick stab at providing font management, but Apple needs to fix fonts and provide auto activation and font verification that works. Fonts have always been a crisis for Mac users.
New Development Tools: It's already well known that Apple is working to deliver garbage collection (automatically managed memory allocation) in Objective-C. Apple will also be pushing developers to embrace Xcode, in order to become more proficient and to deliver their applications as Universal Binaries. Apple also wants developers to take advantage of frameworks such as Core Data, so that the technology updates that Apple delivers will broadly improve Mac software.
Boot Camp will come out of beta status in Leopard. What does that mean? Likely:

  1. Functional tools for adjusting the size of partitions on GPT disks dynamically, or working with already partitioned drives.

  2. Tools for imaging and verifying NTFS volumes.

  3. Additional Windows drivers, including the iSight and trackpad support for two finger clicks.

  4. Does Boot Camp portend new Apple initiatives into building and supporting a independent version of Windows? No chance! What about Parallels?
Parallels offers the immediate convenience of working between Mac and PC environments, but Boot Camp offers faster performance for PC gaming. They both have useful and complementary uses. There is no chance that Apple will buy Parallels, or build their own WINE Red Box environment, but it would be cool if Parallels supported booting from a Boot Camp volume. This is more a task for the developer of Parallels, not Apple.
iTunes U is Apple’s existing program for working with higher education to publish courses to students. It turns the software that runs the iTMS into a web service deployment system for universities’ asset management and learning management systems, and turns the iPod into an essential and integrated learning device. Apple’s latest work in pushing iTunes U will be featured at WWDC. You thought the iPod was just a music player?
Mac OS X Server will announce new leaps in functionality, compatibility, and support for open standards, as well as new tools for deploying and managing servers and rolling out NetBoot clients. Apple has in particular promised better integration with Microsoft’s Active Directory.
New Hardware
I was surprised when Apple released the PowerMac G5 at WWDC 2003, but it now sounds fairly certain Apple will debut the Mac Pro Intel based desktops. Adobe Creative Suite isn't Universal yet, but Apple's Pro Apps are, and so Apple now has customers that would benefit from Intel based workstation computers.
It also seems likely that the Xserve will move to Intel soon, but without a killer application for moving to Intel, new Xserves might wait until the actual launch of Leopard in the spring. Of course, there is also a broader market available for an Xserve mini, and there is that killer app I mentioned last week.
My Predictive Wishlist
Now for some more speculative predictions. Here is a roundup of products, features, and functionality Apple may roll out at WWDC or as part of Leopard. Some are reasonable extensions of existing products, and some fill out empty spaces in Apple's offerings, and some are obvious expansions of Apple's existing lineup.
New and Expanded Applications
  1. The Finder is on everybody's fix-it list. I wrote up ideas to make it faster, smarter, and prettier.

  2. iChat AV could turn into a full fledged SIP phone service, with Apple selling optional SIP phone sets, perhaps even wireless phone devices.

  3. New iSight applications including gesture feedback, Facetop style conferencing, and collaboration features like white boarding and application sharing.

  4. XPhone Pro delivering VOIP PBX Phone services as a killer app for the Xserve line.

  5. Press Pro. It makes sense Apple would at some point release a Pro version of their web and print publishing tools with advanced page layout and web publishing features: iPhoto has Aperture, iMovie has Final Cut, Garage Band has Logic; Press Pro would be the Pro App version of Pages and iWeb.

  6. Personal WebObjects would bring the power of dynamic web applications to home and education. Prebuilt templates for things like a shopping cart store or a product catalog or portfolio which draw upon a database of products or assets. This could also be tied into .Mac for easy hosting.

  7. Remote Desktop Express, a simple version of Apple Remote Desktop, is basically a VNC client for casual use. It would allow users to turn on the built in Remote Desktop client and allow a support person to help them set things up or troubleshoot remotely.
Better .Mac Integration with real features that would draw subscribers:
  1. Hyperblogging for web content submission, rating, and commenting.

  2. A .Macster Social Network that creates community among .Mac users.

  3. Reputation, Privacy, and Secure Identity for user’s online presence.

  4. A .Mac Marketplace exposed in the Finder Store.

  5. Enhanced sharing to encourage contribution and discover new content.

User Interface
In general, Apple needs to make Mac OS X look cohesive, and I think Leopard will finalize and extend upon the iLife Unified look. It is also possible that Apple will further refine a new Leopard look for branding both the new OS and upcoming 2007 apps.
Recall that 10.0 released the bright white and clear plastic look, Jaguar 10.2 introduced more subtle pin striping and toned down translucency, Panther 10.3 brought darker grey scale looks, and Tiger brought the lighter Unified appearance. Similarly, iLife applications introduce new waves of window fashion on an annual basis.
UI Features that would be great to see in Leopard:

  1. Objectify more items the way Mail turns email addresses into blobs. Objectify URLs, iCals, colors, file selections, and clippings.

  2. Save clippings in a multiple clipboard bin like iClip. Record a user's clippings and let them go to a clipboard history to access previously cut and pasted items.

  3. Network clipboarding to allow users to cut and paste between machines.

  4. Ad hock, Bonjour file sharing to make copying occasional documents between machines super easy without setting up a network.  

  5. Bring back Apple Data Detectors to automatically parse content to find useful bits. Grab all the emails and phone numbers out of a document.

  6. Serviceposé extracts Services functionality and presents them in a useful context.

  7. Notification feedback indicators that provide customizable framework for applications to subtly present task completion and signal when new content becomes available.
Conceptual Hardware
  1. Embedded Mac OS X Server

  2. Media center

  1. iPod Shuffle ID with HASP security key and thumbprint scanner

  2. iPod Pro with business features

  3. iPod Blogger with iLife capture features
No Chance!
Here's my short list of no-way predictions: the commonly repeated ideas that have zero chance of happening.
  1. Use of Linux Kernel Linux isn’t even in the running.

  2. Microkernel Removal Nothing wrong with the kernel.

  3. An Intel-Only Leopard It will be Universal.

  4. The End of an open Darwin project The kernel not going to stay closed.

  5. iPod based Phone It will be a phone, not a music player that can place calls.

  6. Self-Destructing Rental Media Exploding media is lame.

And finally: Skins on anything are not going to happen.
This Series
I really like to hear from readers. What do you think? Leave a comment or email me with your ideas.
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Leopard Predictions for WWDC 2006
Thursday, August 3, 2006
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