Apple

Health and home to headline software announcements at WWDC, business impact to be more subtle

Apple will focus on software at WWDC today, offering new health tracking technology and smart home integration. The rumor mill has focused on consumer tech, but corporate implications also exist.

WWDC
Image credit: Apple

WWDC 2014 begins today, starting with a keynote that will be liveblogged by an army of tech journalists and livestreamed to thousands more. The event starts at 10AM PDT, but we've got a good idea of what's coming.

The event is, first and foremost, aimed at developers. Apple has posted banners at the Moscone Center in San Francisco bearing the slogan "Write the code. Change the world."

New versions of Apple's mobile operating system, used on many hundreds of millions of devices and new version of the OS X desktop software — perhaps to be named after Yosemite National Park — are expected to be announced.

The biggest new feature in iOS 8, originally leaked back in January, is called Healthbook. It will be a new built-in app to iOS, tracking statistics for health and fitness, including user footsteps (via the motion-tracking M7 coprocessor in the iPhone 5s), heart rate, and sleeping activity.

SEE: Apple's next big move: Capture three new ecosystems (ZDNet)

It will connect to third-party health-monitoring hardware like the $200 Mio Alpha heart rate monitoring watch or the Nike+ FuelBand, but it will likely be used in conjunction with a rumored smart watch that Apple is said to be introducing later this year.

With the ability to track many different health statistics, Healthbook could open up a wide variety of opportunities for new medical devices and health platforms to become app-enabled, which could potentially create an entire new industry for developers and companies to join.

Apple is also said to be introducing a new unified platform for smart devices like the Nest Thermostat or Philips Hue lightbulbs. Currently, users with many "appcessories" need to download an app from each individual device maker to make changes. With a "Made for iPhone" smart home platform, Apple has the opportunity to unify these different manufacturers with one consistent user interface — perhaps increasing ease of use and encouraging adoption by those less likely to be early adopters.

Finally, there have been rumors of a new mobile payments system and changes to iTunes Radio, an expansion of Siri, and the integration of the Shazam song identification service to iOS.

OS X 10.10 — possibly named Yosemite — could see a user interface redesign similar to the iOS 7 rework unveiled last year at WWDC. Leaked images from late last night show iOS-like Control and Notification Center features, plus a flatter user interface in Safari and the Finder itself.

Though there are seemingly endless rumors about new Apple TV, iWatch, and iPhone products, it is unlikely that any of these will be unveiled at WWDC. Harry McCracken looked back upon 10 years of WWDC keynotes, noting that the vast majority focus on software and only occasionally include major hardware announcements. Last year's Mac Pro preview was a notable exception, but Apple's Pro tower was long overdue and of particular interest to developers.

Regardless, the announcements could portend significant opportunities for developers, particularly in the medical and smart device fields, with the following week of confidential developer sessions proving invaluable to the thousands of developers attending.

Those looking for major hardware annoucements will likely have to wait until later in the year — but, if Apple executives are to be believed, it'll be worth the wait.

What are you hoping to see out of the WWDC keynote today? Let us know in the comments below.

About Jordan Golson

Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.

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