Apple conference preview – new iPhone, new iTunes and new operating system set for release

With just a few days to go until Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference begins, tech fans across the world are eager to see what new products the company has in store.

The conference, with a keynote to be delivered by chief executive Steve Jobs after a few years of absence, is expected to see the launch of new iPhone hardware and even an iTunes overhaul.

Thousands of developers will travel to San Francisco next week to take part in the conference, with individuals and small software groups, including many Australians, keen to show off their latest innovations.

This year, a number of different Australian developers will be going. The local app industry has heated up over the past two years, with some of the most successful apps in the world now developed by Australian companies.

Representatives from Melbourne-based studios Bjango, Firemint, MoGeneration and jTribe will be attending the keynote next week, and all hope to see changes they can use to develop new apps.

But it isn’t just developers who are excited. The WWDC conference has been the traditional launching pad for new hardware, and customers are just as eager to see what the company has in store.

Apart from some bragging about iPad sales, Jobs is expected to announce some significant product improvements. Here are four of the biggest announcements expected next week at WWDC 2010.

iPhone

There is little doubt Apple will launch new iPhone hardware next week.

Several weeks ago, tech blog Gizmodo managed to get its hands on a prototype iPhone an Apple employee left in a bar. The entire story, which resulted in a Gizmodo editor having his house searched by police, confirmed new hardware was on the way.

The company even confirmed the prototype was genuine, and Steve Jobs remarked on the story yesterday at the D8 conference.

The phone appears slightly different to the current iPhone model, with rounded edges and a thicker design, instead of the current curved back. The volume and screen lock buttons are also differently designed, and are thicker than current versions.

The phone comes in either black or white, according to a number of other tech blogs, and is expected to contain some extra memory to speed up apps. It also contains a high-resolution screen, which would make sense if Apple is introducing the iBooks Store to the iPhone.

Some analysts have said the leak is a setback for Apple, which usually relies on secrecy to build up anticipation before its events. However, customers still don’t know the specifics of what the final phone is, what it will look like, or how it will work – leaving Apple with some surprises.

iPhone OS 4.0

Apple already announced the OS 4.0 software earlier this year, but developers are now expecting a solid release date to be announced.

Among the new features are the long-awaited multitasking support, folders for app categories, a universal mailbox, custom backgrounds, a game centre for social gaming and the new iAd platform.

Developers have been toying with beta builds of the software for the past few months, so as soon as the OS is available for download users should be able to get new apps straight away, as well as updates for old apps.

But there still could be some last-minute updates. Analysts are hoping to see some improvements to the iPhone’s lock screen, with the ability to display information like calendar dates and notifications.
However, while Apple has introduced some last-minute surprises in the past, it isn’t necessarily likely they’ll do so again.

iTunes

Apple’s iTunes software regularly receives updates to add new features, but some tech analysts are expecting a major overhaul – the addition of a web-based streaming service.

The rumour was prompted by Apple’s acquisition of music streaming service LaLa late last year. With a price of $US80 million, according to tech blogs such as MacRumours and TechCrunch, analysts were surprised Apple would spend such a large amount of money and then shut the site down completely.

But that isn’t necessarily Apple’s plan. Some analysts say iTunes will now be integrated with the LaLa technology to create a web-based streaming service. Users would be able to access their entire library online and stream it to their iPhone, iPod or computer wherever they are located.

Such an improvement would be extremely significant. Apple would effectively erase the need for devices with higher storage capacity, meaning users would only need to purchase devices with low storage and then rely on the web-service to listen to music or watch video files.

Apple TV

Since Apple TV was released in 2007, analysts have been less than impressed with its performance. The ability to surf the iTunes store through a television was a novel idea at the time, but users haven’t taken up the technology as quickly as Apple would have hoped.

But new rumours suggest the company may be looking to revamp the gadget with a smaller version that would allow users to browse the iTunes Store to purchase and rent films, along with access to their own iTunes library.

The device is set to run on the iPhone OS software, meaning developers would even be able to create apps. Some tech blogs have even suggested the gadget will sell for $US99.

The move would make sense, given internet giant Google has just entered the sector with the announcement of its Google TV software. Steve Jobs even commented yesterday at the D8 conference that TV set-top boxes will need to change in order to be successful.

But don’t get too excited. While an Apple TV update is long overdue, some tech sites say Apple is still working on a new gadget and will be for some time.

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