The Siri speaker and other things you should look for at WWDC 2017
It’s the day before WWDC 2017: The Artificial Intelligencing, where Apple can brag about its new circular Park campus, advanced adoption of its Swift Playgrounds and, oh yeah, a lot of hardware. Yep, developers work on both software and hardware, so the myth about this being a coder’s Camelot isn’t wholly true. It just changes with the weather each year.
So, what’s up this year?
Apple Neural Engine
The “no duh” of the event will likely be the debut of the Apple Neural Engine, a dedicated co-processor designed to handle artificial intelligence tasks and help the company in the race to instant everything — from responding naturally to voice queries about hotel bookings to upping the temperature of the baby’s room by a few degrees and so on. AI would also aid in regular computing tasks, including graphics processing. Apple’s design is said to differ from the approach of competing chip designer ARM, which just introduced AI-integrated designs for two new Cortex-A series cores and the Mali-G72 GPU.
Out of the many places Apple can stick this engine (like next to the engine of an Apple Car), we may see a smart speaker announced at the keynote. The virtual surround sound speaker would be powered by conversations with Siri and augment her access from the phone and Apple TV. It would also be able to serve up Apple services like Apple Music and HomeKit control that users of the Google Home and Amazon Echo speakers don’t have.
Even if Apple doesn’t disclose anything about this device, it is said to be in production right now and could launch with the new iPhones in September or even possibly later at a Mac-related event.
Next wave of OS updates
Developers will get their first tastes of what’s going for iOS 11 and watchOS 4, along with tvOS 11 and macOS 10.13. As we’re a mobile-focused publication, we’re taking on the first two platforms.
iOS 11 is said to put the axe into 32-bit app support, meaning that over 180,000 titles will be off the App Store in September. While the Apple Neural Engine may certainly introduce new features that could be integrated into the OS, it is not immediately clear if they will be available for testing, given that the silicon isn’t public yet. Apple Music is also said to get reworked for the third time in as many years as it prepares to deliver some semi-original longform video content.
As watchOS 4’s domain is over the Apple Watch, — with the upcoming Series 3 release getting the most attention — it looks like it will accommodate for new glucose-tracking and sleep-tracking hardware. With more biometrics to track, engineers are also going to target improved accuracy on the ones Apple Watch already does. Rumors of a cellular variant also put battery management into scrutiny. These features will likely not be publicly pointed out, as Apple is not in the business of teasing future products in detail before their time, but we do expect some breadcrumbs somewhere down the line.
Hindsight will have to be 20/20, but we hope to see that these forward announcements lead to any translating, teasing or references in the developers’ conference.
All the hardware-based assumptions on watchOS don’t mean, though, that the Apple Watch Series 3 will be out tomorrow. Instead, the likely candidate will be a new iteration of the iPad Pro.
It would breach into a new screen size category of 10.5 inches to go in between the iPad standby of 9.7 inches and the other “Pro” size of 12.9 inches. An updated and exclusive Apple A10X chipset — which its producer seems to have had trouble with over the winter — is said to be inside. There’s an offside chance that the new A11 chip could be inside instead and would give developers an early workhorse in the run-up to the iPhone 8.
Apple is believed to be updating all of the new MacBook Pro SKUs with Intel’s 7th-generation Kaby Lake Core i chips. Pike’s Universium first spotted new SKUs back in February. Other publications are reporting that other MacBook models, like the MacBook Air, may get the same treatment. We’ll hold off on holding our breath for that, though.
So, what are you most looking forward to at WWDC 2017? Comment below and we’ll see you at 10am Pacific tomorrow for the keynote.