WWDC 09 Predictions

As I type this, there are less than 36 hours to go before the opening keynote of Apple’s 2009 Worldwide Developer Conference. The internets are buzzing with speculation as to what we are going to see. I’ve read all the rumors, speculation and predictions, and run them through my sophisticated bullshit detector, and applied my years of experience analyzing the mobile industry to suss out what I think we’re actually going to see. I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before. But I really don’t think it’s likely.

(and for what it’s worth, I think this is not too far from how it might go down)

I don’t think Apple intended for this to be a release conference. I think even as recently as a month ago, they expected to have Phil Schiller make some announcements about iPhone OS 3.0 and Snow Leopard, and maybe announce the third generation iPhone, which I think was intended to be called the iPhone HD. The actual release of the 3.0 firmware and the new iPhone would be in mid-July.

The events of May and the first week of June have, I believe, changed Apple’s plans, and forced them to accelerate their time table. Microsoft’s announcement of the Zune HD and the incredible media hype surrounding the release of the Palm Pre, not to mention Palm’s surprise announcement that the Pre accomplishes media sync by pretending to be an iPod and using Apple’s own iTunes software, has, shall we say, fired the competitive flames within Apple’s Tim Cook, Phil Schiller and yes, Steve Jobs.

Check your iTunes installation. Does it say it will check for the next update on June 8? Even if you just installed 8.2? That’s because it knows something we don’t, namely that the new iTunes firmware will be available right after the keynote, rather than in July. If you have a jailbroken iPhone, restore it now, because you’ll need a clean installation to upgrade on Monday. The 3.0 firmware will be pretty much what we saw in beta 5, with no big new features like background processes. AT&T will offer to add unlimited tethering for your laptop to your account for an additional $30 a month.

More than that, Schiller (and maybe Jobs) will unveil the new iPhone Video, a name which has already shown up in some behind the scenes code. This will be very similar to the iPhone 3G in size and shape, but will have a slightly different face. It will have a 320×570, 16×9 aspect screen. pushing the earpiece grill further towards the top of the device. In many ways it will look like a “stealth” 3G, with a gunmetal bezel and a matte finish black back. The front glass will conceal a VGA front facing video camera for iChat to go along with the 3.2 MP autofocus camera on the back.

The iPhone Video will be available immediately via Apple.com, and at Apple stores either Monday or Tuesday. Not sure when AT&T retail outlets will get it. It will come in three capacities: 8GB for $99 with a two year contract, 16GB for $199 and 32GB for $299.

That’s a lot, and I think they’ll stop there. I don’t expect them to announce the iTablet or iPad or whatever they call the Kindle-sized iPod Touch we all suspect them to be working on. Steve’s a showman and he knows the first rule of showmanship: always leave them wanting more. We’ll hear a little about Snow Leopard in the opening comments, which I expect to be released sooner rather than later, probably late July or August. And of course, judging by the banners already hanging at WWDC, they’ll be playing up the App Store, and will showcase a few big name applications that take advantage of features exclusive to 3.0. Look for Documents to Go and Beejive to figure prominently.

Am I off base? We have 36 hours to find out. Josh Curry and I are planning to record our return to Maximum Geek Monday night, so be sure to check in for our analysis and other tech news hijinks.

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