WWDC 2020 Predictions

Image: © 2013 Aaron Brethorst

I’ve been a Cocoa developer since 2003, and an iOS developer since it was called iPhoneOS in 2008. I’ve attended WWDC four times: first in 2003 as a student scholarship winner, and then three times in the 2010s. I thought I had a good handle on the WWDC formula, and that I was pretty good at the WWDC prediction game, but COVID-19 has thrown a real curveball at us this year. Nevertheless, we can make some very good guesses about what will be announced this year, based in part on a surprise leak of iOS 14 back in February.

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New Operating Systems Announced

(Obviously.)

9to5Mac has been publishing information on iOS 14 leaks for a few months, and Vice published an article in May covering some details of how an early build of iOS 14 leaked out.

ARM Macs

ARM Macs seem like a logical step for a company like Apple, which is so dedicated to vertical integration. I’m certainly excited about replacing my Intel MacBook Pro with a featherweight ARM Mac that gets 16 hours of battery life, but I don’t think this meaningfully changes the importance of the Mac—for better or worse—at Apple. But hopefully it will mean that we see a faster rate of hardware improvements in Apple’s laptops.

AirTags

Apple’s long-rumored Tile competitor will finally be unveiled at WWDC, and are almost certainly made available for pre-order ‘later this week.’ I hope, but am not particularly confident, that Apple will provide an SDK for interacting with AirTags.

Augmented Reality

Apple has a long-term view of the importance of Augmented Reality (AR), and if a story from Bloomberg Businessweek is to be believed, they have a team of 1,000 engineers working on AR hardware. AR would represent a paradigm shift in how we interact with wearable technologies and the world around us—and it will require meaningful third-party developer support to succeed. Accordingly, Apple’s been prodding their developer ecosystem to become proficient in developing ARKit-based apps for a while now, and have been slowly putting out hardware improvements to enable increasingly exciting ARKit apps. All of this is meant to prime the ecosystem for a huge splash with Apple Glasses, or whatever they end up calling them, when the hardware is released in 2022 or 2023.

SwiftUI 2.0

SwiftUI will continue to mature, and it will likely be useful for ‘real’ apps in the iOS 14 timeframe, which will be extremely important because it will be the preferred way to build user interfaces in…

Xcode…for iPadOS

Swift Playgrounds was released a few years ago, and it continues to mature, but it isn’t a ‘pro’ tool for building software. Apple clearly knows this, and I think they are finally ready to make the iPad a legitimate professional tool for software developers by releasing Xcode for iPadOS. Out of necessity, Xcode for iPadOS wouldn’t have the same wide complement of features that its desktop version has, but I imagine it would offer a full-featured editor and SwiftUI designer, full support for third party Swift packages via SPM, the ability to deploy locally in a ‘simulator’ for testing, and—of course—the ability to submit apps to the App Store.

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