Apple WWDC 2012 Preview: 6 Things We Can’t Wait to See

Right now Apple is on top of the tech world, and at WWDC the company hopes to show why things should stay that way with a flurry of new announcements. Apple CEO Tim Cook will be under a fair amount of pressure because he’s taking the reigns from the late Steve Jobs at this all-important conference for developers and press. But more eyes will be on the products than the presentation.

So what’s on tap? Probably not the iPhone 5. But according to various reports everything else will be, including all-new MacBooks with Retina Displays, iOS 6 with Facebook integration and an all-new Maps app. We’ll be there live bringing you all the latest Apple news. In the meantime, here’s what we expect to see.

Revamped MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs

First the rumor mill had Apple releasing MacBook Pros with slimmer designs and super high-res Retina Displays. But more recently a forum poster on a Chinese website claimed that the upgrades would be relatively minor. We’re talking faster Ivy Bridge processors, USB 3.0 ports to complement Thunderbolt and Bluetooth 4.0 support. That seems pretty boring to us, so we’re putting our money on 9 to 5 Mac’s reports of a more substantial redesign to go along with beefed up Nvidia Kepler graphics. 

Just in case there is any doubt about Retina displays hitting Macs, Retina-ready apps have already started to show up in the Mac App Store.

Meanwhile, we also expect Apple to upgrade the MacBook Air to Ivy Bridge and Retina Displays. Although the Air is already the best-designed ultraportable we’ve used–and Apple now has a patent on the shape–we wouldn’t be surprised to see the company shrink the footprint of the Air by minimizing the bezel and the area around the keyboard, similar to the Dell XPS 13. The idea: squeeze a 13-inch notebook into a 12-inch chassis.

[[Read More: Next MacBook Pro: 6 Things You Need to Know]]

Facebook Integration Hits iOS 6

At one time Steve Jobs explained Apple’s somewhat cold relationship status with Facebook by talking about “onerous terms.” But based on the pre-WWDC buzz it seems that the two companies have hugged it out. In iO6 6 users should finally be able to do such things as post photos to Facebook right from the camera app. You’ll also be able to post stories to Facebook from Safari. But we have a feeling this will just scratch the surface.

According to TechCrunch, users will be able to sign into apps that leverage Facebook much more seamlessly. Others have speculated that Facebook could be integrated into the App Store, where you could “Like” an app to recommend it to friends. Given that Facebook just announced its own App Center for socially-driven app discovery for iOS, we can pretty much guarantee that the 900-million strong social network will have a big presence at WWDC.

[[Read More: Facebook Launches App Center with Personalized Recommendations]]

Bye, Bye Google: Apple’s Goes Its Own Way with Maps

It’s not a coincidence that Google held an event just days before WWDC announcing a new Google Maps for Android that will include full 3D images and offline access. It’s a pre-emptive attack on iOS 6, which will reportedly ditch Google Maps in favor of all-new maps app homegrown by Apple. What will make this app better or different?

According to 9 to 5 Mac, the Apple Maps app is a “much cleaner, faster and more reliable experience” and there’s a Street View killer inside with ultra-realistic 3D views. Apple had previously scooped up Placebase, C3 Technologies and Poly9–all valuable mapping companies–and now it looks like we’re going to see the fruits of these acquisitions at WWDC.

[[Read More: Apple Dropping Google Maps in Favor of In-House App]]

Siri Gets Smarter, Coming to iPad

One of the best parts about Siri on the iPhone 4S is that you can just bring the handset up to your ear to activate Apple’s voice-powered personal assistant. But that doesn’t mean that iPad users don’t want to be able to get answers to all sorts of questions, look up the weather and set reminders and appointments just by speaking to their tablets. 9 to 5 Mac says this functionality is pretty much a lock for iOS 6 on the iPad.

Siri will apparently bring most of her talents to the bigger screen, including Music playback, iMessaging, Calendar management, Reminders, Weather, Maps integration, E-mail, Notes, Contacts searches, Safari integration, Wolfram-Alpha searches. All this is in addition to the voice dictation the iPad already does. However, it’s possible that Apple might not reveal this feature at WWDC; the company could wait until fall when it unveils the next iPhone, and possibly, the next iPad.

We believe Siri will play a role in WWDC, and that Tim Cook will make good on his promise from D10 that “there’s a lot more that it can do,” and that we’ll see much more “breadth.” We think Siri is about to learn a lot of new tricks.

[[Read More: 8 Ways to Make Siri Smarter]]

Mountain Lion Roars

In a lot of ways Mountain Lion is the polar opposite of Windows 8. It’s not trying to marry the tablet and PC. Instead, the latest version of OS X brings some of the best features of the iPad to the desktop, including deeper iCloud integration and Notes and Reminders apps that sync with their iOS counterparts. There’s also a new Notification Center you can access just by swiping from the right edge of the trackpad, and Twitter integration for sharing. 

Expect Apple to announce final pricing and availability for Mountain Lion, which will also presumably ship on the new MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs. 

We also anticipate Apple to talk more about security in Mountain Lion. Given the bad publicity surrounding the Flashback virus from a few months back, Apple will likely play up the new Gatekeeper feature in its OS that prevents users from downloading unsafe apps. 

[[Read More: Mountain Lion In-Depth Preview: Much More iPad Inside]]

Apple TV Evolves?

It’s more than just a hobby. At D10 CEO Tim Cook said that TV was “an intense area of interest” for the company, which is why Apple continues to roll out new set-top boxes. We also expect Apple to add new content providers, such as Netflix. But is an actual TV set on tap for WWDC? Boy Genius Report recently said it could be a possibility, based on an analyst research note. We don’t buy it. An iTV would likely warrant its own event.

More likely than an iTV is a new user interface for the existing Apple TV, which BGR outlined in a separate report. The underlying OS apparently has the ability to control other components and accessories using a new API. Who knows, maybe Siri for the iPad will let you control Apple TV as well.

[[Read More: Apple iTV Reportedly Coming This Summer in 32- and 37-inch Sizes]]

Mark Spoonauer
Mark Spoonauer
Responsible for the editorial vision for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide, Mark Spoonauer has been Editor in Chief of LAPTOP since 2003 and has covered technology for nearly 15 years. Mark speaks at key tech industry events and makes regular media appearances on CNBC, Fox and CNN. Mark was previously reviews editor at Mobile Computing, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc.
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