Apple today laid out the schedule for its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), and confirmed that it will, as usual, kick off the annual meeting with a keynote address, likely hosted by CEO Tim Cook.
The company also released a free iOS app that lets attendees track the conference events and plan their schedule.
Although Apple did not divulge who would lead the keynote, the company typically relies on its CEO for the duty. Last year, former CEO Steve Jobs, at the time on indefinite medical leave, made his second-to-last public appearance at the WWDC keynote.
This year’s annual developers conference will be the first since Jobs died last October.
That leaves current CEO Tim Cook as the most likely candidate to host the keynote, said Ezra Gottheil, analyst with Technology Business Research. “He’s not a geek, but when he needs one, he can bring one on stage,” said Gottheil of Cook, who made his bones at Apple as its chief operating officer.
WWDC is important enough for Apple that it bring its CEO on stage, Gottheil continued. “That’s worked for them well in the past, and I don’t see them changing it.”
While the conference schedule is available only to attendees — who ponied up $1,599 in April for tickets — the confab will focus on Apple’s two operating systems, iOS and OS X.
iOS 6, which will power this year’s iPhone, will be front and center, said Gottheil, along with OS X 10.8, aka Mountain Lion, the desktop operating system slated to ship later this summer.
“They’ll maintain that pace,” said Gottheil, referring to last year’s WWDC, where Apple unveiled iOS 5 to developers, and the October 2011 launch of the iPhone 4S, which ran the new operating system. “It’s still a young enough OS that it shouldn’t be a terribly great challenge for them to focus on new features the iPhone needs.”
Tops on Gottheil’s iOS 6 wish list is an API (application programming interface) for Siri, the voice-controlled, talking assistant that debuted on the iPhone 4S. An API, or multiple APIs, would let third-party developers call on Siri within their own apps.
“They may have over promoted Siri, but I don’t see that that hurt them,” said Gottheil, talking about the often-odd, often-mocked answers the service gives. The time since last October, Gottheil added, was well spent, as it gave Apple plenty of data it could use to shake out problems and bugs.
“There are going to be some horrible apps [that use Siri],” said Gottheil, if Apple does publish APIs for the service. “But there are going to be some winners, too, that will change how we examine and think of apps.”
Officially, Siri remains in beta seven months after its launch.
Also on the WWDC agenda will be sessions devoted to Mountain Lion, the upgrade to last year’s OS X 10.7.
Apple has only said that it will release Mountain Lion “late summer,” but some clues earlier this month seemed to point to a sooner-rather-than-later debut, perhaps at the conference itself. Apple has not issued a new build of the OS X 10.8 developer preview since April 18, however, putting those projections in jeopardy.
Of course, the company could use WWDC to unveil not only more features in Mountain Lion, but also its price — as it did last year — and an on-sale date.
Unless Apple departs from its usual practice, the keynote will not be webcast to the public, but will be accessible only to attendees and a small cadre of the media.
WWDC runs June 11-15 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, with the keynote slated for 10 a.m. PT on Monday, June 11. The conference sold out in record time last month, with Apple running through its usual 5,000 tickets in under two hours.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld.