Apple comes to its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco next week in unfamiliar fashion.
For the first time in recent memory, an Apple product - the next iPhone, which is expected to be one of the major highlights of Steve Jobs’ Monday keynote - has been extensively dissected ahead of time.
Apple is also facing more competition from rivals in the smart-phone space, growing sniping from partners such as Google and Adobe, and new scrutiny from federal regulators. And it has now a second breakout success with the iPad, which is selling at a faster pace than the original iPhone.
So how does Jobs respond? That’s the big question.
With the well-publicized recovery of a lost iPhone prototype by gadget blog Gizmodo, many of the hardware details for the next iPhone seem set: faster processor, bigger battery, better display, new block-ish design and a forward-facing camera.
Combined with announced updates for the iPhone 4.0 operating system, which will presumably ship with the new device, it should sport a number of software improvements including multitasking, a social-gaming network and a new advertising platform from Apple.
But there are still other iPhone details that Jobs could use to wow the crowd, including a demonstration of a new video chat service or perhaps wireless syncing of content. There’s also the matter of what to call the new iPhone. IPhone HD appears to be a popular choice.
Apple could also announce iPhone improvements for corporate customers. The device is increasingly embraced by companies but Apple could do more to include features for managing and securing a deployment of iPhones.
What not to expect: Any word of a Verizon Wireless iPhone. Verizon has said nothing’s coming soon, but some analysts believe it could still be on track for a launch as early as this fall. Jobs himself said earlier this week there might be advantages to offering the iPhone on two carriers in the United States.
Ken Dulaney, an analyst with Gartner Research, said Apple still has the better complete package but faces increasingly stiff competition, especially from devices running Google’s Android operating system.
“There is more advanced hardware out there like the HTC EVO 4G,” he said. “Apple has to respond to that.”
There is some speculation that Apple is prepared to radically update its Apple TV set-top box, according to a report in Engadget. Following Google’s recent unveiling of the Google TV platform, Apple may be working to upgrade the box with the iPhone operating system. Jobs, however, continues to refer to Apple TV as a hobby and said this past week that the TV set-top market is a tough one to crack.
There is also increasing speculation about what Apple intends to do with its acquisition of music streaming service Lala, which recently shuttered its online site. Some have wondered if Apple will move to add streaming capabilities to its iTunes service, allowing users to access their home library from a Web-connected device.
Other news could include a look at the next version of the Mac OS X operating system, more insight into iPad developments and perhaps news that Verizon will get the iPad. Whatever happens, expect to be satisfied, said Jobs.
“You won’t be disappointed,” he wrote to a fan in an e-mail.