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3 reasons I’m excited about WWDC 2013

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As with any lead-up to an Apple event, the rumour mills and speculations are building to a frenzy ahead of next week’s WWDC. However, this one is particularly exciting to me, and not only because I’ll be in San Francisco while it’s on.

1. Apple’s long-awaited music streaming service

Sunday’s news about Apple signing with Warner Music seems like ‘iRadio’ (please don’t let them actually call it that) could be a reality pretty soon, and now Sony is the only major label holding out. (I guess you can’t blame them: film and music is the only area they make money in these days.) All signs point towards Apple announcing its streaming service at WWDC if they can get Sony on board, and I’m pretty excited by that.

I feel pretty strongly about the way we consume music, and although artists and labels bemoan the reduced royalties generated by the likes of Spotify, Rdio, and Pandora, the tide is changing and it seems futile to resist listeners’ move away from ownership. However, I believe that there’s space for someone to evolve our existing sense of ownership (well, the iTunes library) and combine it with the best parts of the existing streaming services, leading to something truly innovative. As I’ve said before, Apple are well-placed to create such a service and I sincerely hope that’s what we see unveiled next week.

I have my doubts, though:

  • Firstly, all these tailored-to-your-taste radio rumours don’t sound particularly innovating. I want to be pointed towards new music, but I’ve always avoided radio-like experiences built into the likes of Spotify. Personally I hate listening to music on a one-song-at-a-time basis. Give me albums!
  • Secondly, can we trust Apple to get this right? Let’s not forget the disaster that was Ping and iTunes’ clumsy Genius UI.
  • Thirdly, there are a few questions about integration: if the streaming service is part of the iTunes application, is it merely another tab, and how will that work across multiple devices? The iTunes / App Store apps across OS X and two different versions of iOS have been wildly inconsistent (some part of the same app, others not). And as much as I liked the desktop iTunes 11 redesign when it launched, I’ve found it to be a somewhat frustrating library experience and I know I’m not alone. Will this be addressed as part of the introduction of iRadio? Probably not, I’m guessing.

For further reading, I suggest The Verge’s summary of Apple’s journey towards a streaming service.

2. iOS 7, led by Jony Ive

Whilst I try to ignore those silly ‘flat design’ arguments and actively avoid those ‘like’-baiting Dribbble shots of what iOS could look like if it had its gradients removed (sigh), there’s no doubt that an Ive-led redesign of iOS is around the corner and I’m confident that it’ll be a step forward, no matter how subtle or drastic a form it takes.

3. New hardware

It’s unusual for hardware to be announced at WWDC due to its obvious developer focus, but based on Apple’s release cycle and almost-guaranteed announcement of iOS 7, I’d say the iPhone 5S is a sure bet.

There are lots of rumours floating around about subtle refreshes to the MacBook line-up based mainly on reduced stock levels, although it’s likely they’re mainly processor and camera upgrades. I’d love to see the Airs get a Retina upgrade, but it seems unlikely. Let’s hope I’m proven wrong! From a purely curious perspective, I’m intrigued by the rumours of a new Mac Pro, again mainly based on dwindling inventory, but personally I’m still hoping for a Retina iPad Mini. Sadly I think it’s less likely, with rumours point to it appearing at the end of the year.

There’s the potential for Apple to unveil some seriously cool stuff next week, and of course a huge potential for disappointment. With this WWDC pointing to the possibility of so many future products, in many ways I wonder if this could be an event that defines a post-Jobs Apple. Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to it.