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Saturday
Jun022018

Thousands of developers heading to Silicon Valley for Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(SAN JOSE, Calif.) -- It’s that time of year again where thousands of developers head to Silicon Valley for Apple’s annual Worldwide Developer Conference, aka WWDC.

The five-day conference, which will take place at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California, consists of technical and design-focused sessions, hands-on labs and special events.

While most major tech companies have developer conferences, Apple’s is especially noteworthy because of the number of developers the company needs.

“Given the fact that they [Apple] have 1.3 billion active devices ... in order to maintain and grow that base you have to have a boatload of applications built on the platform to keep it growing, so you need a lot of developer power to do that,” Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures, told ABC News.

The week will kick off with the WWDC 2018 keynote at 10 a.m. Pacific time on June 4, where the company will likely announce its latest software -- and possibly hardware --innovations, if history is any indicator.

What exactly is the WWDC?

While Apple holds a number of events each year, WWDC is always one of the most anticipated. It attracts thousands of developers from around the world who pay $1,599 to attend the five-day event. The event is open to members of the Apple Developer Program or the Apple Developer Enterprise Program and tickets are available through a random selection process. The company also offers the opportunity for students or members of a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) organization to attend by applying for a WWDC18 Scholarship.

WWDC always begins with a keynote presentation given by Apple executives and employees and this year should be no exception. Presenters will likely include CEO Tim Cook, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi and Senior Vice President Worldwide Marketing Philip Schiller, among others. Historically the company has used this time to make some major announcements about the future of its technologies and platforms.

Following the keynote, attendees can head to a number of sessions and hands-on labs hosted by Apple engineers, to learn to implement the newest Apple technologies into their applications. Additionally there are one-on-one consultations, guest speakers and special events.

What can we expect?

Last year Apple made a number of major software and hardware announcements, including watchOS 4, macOS High Sierra, iOS 11, HomePod smart speakers, iPad Pro 10.5 and a new iMac Pro. While Apple keeps everything under wraps there are predictions and rumors about what consumers can expect.

“I think it's going to be much more focused on the software services piece of the business rather than the hardware releases seen in the past.” Daniel Ives, chief strategy officer and head of technology research for GBH Insights, told ABC News.

Software

Because the event is devoted to developers many of the most anticipated announcements revolve around software. Apple will likely preview their two new main operating systems macOS and iOS, which is typically followed by previews of updated watchOS and tvOS.

Ives predicted there will be a big focus on iOS 12, new Apple Watch software and new enhancements for Siri.

“The new enhancements for Siri could play into HomePod enhancements, which has been a major issue for Apple and investors as they're falling well behind Amazon Alexa and Echo and Google in the smartspeaker battle royale,” Ives told ABC News.

Munster also predicted big news around Siri: “Probably the biggest thing we’re going to hear from them [Apple] is around how they will likely open up Siri to new domains.”

“There’s certain areas around commerce or information that Siri doesn’t do a good job with and they can open Siri up to allow developers to build around those. Think of it as opening up Siri makes Siri smarter and creates new businesses around Siri,” he added.

Another prediction from Munster: Apple will likely make announcements updating Core ML, their artificial intelligence platform which was announced last year to allow developers to easily add AI to their apps, and updates to ARKit, which is Apple’s platform for developing augmented reality apps.

Ives said there’s also a chance that Apple will hint at news regarding video streaming: “I think you’ll leave WWDC knowing if they're [Apple] is just going to have a minimalist strategy on content on the video side with much more focus on streaming music or is this year that Apple flexes its muscles and goes after content. Especially as competitors from all angles are spending combined $15 billion on content this year between Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO and Facebook.”

Hardware

Apple announced AirPower, a wireless charging mat, in September 2017, but has yet to release the product, creating speculation that it could launch at the WWDC18 keynote.

Ives predicted there is a chance Apple will show a sneak preview of iPhone SE 2 and a Macbook Pro redesign, both of which he says would be ultimately released at a later date.

In addition to the predictions around Siri software, Munster said that Apple could be bringing Siri to a beach speaker.

Digital Wellbeing

Earlier this month at their annual developer conference, Google announced a new initiative called “Digital Wellbeing” to help people understand their own technology usage and device habits to “focus on what matters most, disconnect when needed, and create healthy habits for the whole family.”

Munster predicted that Apple will follow suit.

How big of deal is this conference for Apple?

WWDC is one of Apple’s most important events of the year. It provides insight into what the tech giant has planned for the coming year and also teaches developers how to use their latest technology to create apps across Apple platforms.

“This is a key developer conference and it is very important to see what's in the crystal ball of [Apple headquarters in] Cupertino, [California], and Cook as we look into the next six to 12 months,” Ives told ABC News.

Ives said the technology space is more competitive than ever -- making this year’s WWDC especially important.

“Competition is coming from all angles. The industry is becoming more competitive ... now it's about what's going to be the next step going forward.”

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