Apple WWDC 2017 Predictions: macOS, tvOS, and watchOS

One of the hardest things to do is predict where Apple might take things in the future. However, that does not stop one from trying. Which is what I plan to do, regarding what Apple will announce at their annual World Wide Developer’s Conference on June 5th at 10 AM Pacific Time.

The Apple of 2017 is very different from the Apple of 1979. Apple today has a fair number of platforms: iOS, macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. Within each of these, there are numerous frameworks which allow developers to produce apps. Built to support these platforms are a variety of services. These services include iCloud, Apple Music, and the iTunes stores.

I am going to attempt to predict what Apple might announce at their World Wide Developer Conference Keynote on June 5th, 2017 at 10:00AM Pacific Time. Some of these items are logical changes while others are just what I hope Apple will announce.

This is the second of two posts that cover my predictions for what will be announced. This article covers macOS, tvOS, and watchOS. The first post covers iPhone and iPad.

macOS

macOS is a very mature operating system. The basic ideas of macOS have been in place since 1984 and many of the features that users have come to rely on have been added since 2001 when Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah was released. With an operating system that is so mature, new features can be hard to come by. However, with a sibling operating system in iOS, macOS can get some new features from iOS.

Feature Parity

Back in 2011 with Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, Apple began having macOS and iOS have more features on both platforms. The biggest was the consistent naming on both platforms. I am well aware that you can only put so much engineering into an operating system every year. However, it would be nice to be able to get the same features on macOS at the same time as iOS. To be clear, there are some features that cannot be easily brought over from one operating system to the other. Additionally, there are always features that are not able to be moved over.

iMessage Apps

With iOS 10, Apple unveiled a new feature to iOS, iMessage Applications. These applications allowed for a variety of items all within the iMessage application. Some of these applications include stickers, full-blown applications, and even the ability to order food, and send money to others. One place where this is not possible is on macOS. Adding iMessage Apps to macOS would not be easy for developers, but it could be possible.

The ability to perform many, if not all, of the same functions on macOS would be very helpful for many users, as well as providing parity between iOS and macOS. With the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, it is possible that any Touch ID-based applications to be available on macOS. I give the likelihood of iMessage Apps being added macOS at 95%.

macOS Server

macOS Server has remaining largely unchanged since 2011 when Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. One of the stalwarts macOS Server is the “Software Update” service. With macOS Sierra, Apple announced that the Software Update Service has been deprecated. What this means is that the service will no longer get any updates. Additionally, at some point in the future the service will be removed entirely. I give the possibility of Apple removing this at 85%. If it is not removed with this version, it will most certainly be removed with the version released next year.

watchOS

Even though watchOS has only been around since November of 2014, it has received vast improvements over the last two and half years. The most significant improvement was with watchOS 3, where both battery and speed improvements were recognized, even with the original Series 0 Apple Watch.

Initially the function of Apple Watch was haphazard. The Apple Watch attempted to be a miniaturized version of the iPhone; but ultimately that proved to be the wrong approach. Now a majority of individuals use the Apple Watch as a health-tracking device.

It’s hard to imagine what other improvements Apple could make. I think the most likely ones revolve around adding new health-related functions. Possibly more workout types. One feature that some have asked for is that there is an option to be able to keep the time on the watch face at all times. The ability to keep the time on the watch face all the time would be a direct

A kind of off-the-wall guess at a new feature is custom watch faces. These would be submitted via Xcode and would be submitted to the Apple Watch store. Submitting Apple Watch faces could work in the same manner as iMessage Stickers work now.

I give the likelihood of new workout types to be 70%. The probability of the watch face showing the current time all the time at 80%. I give the probability of third-party Apple Watch faces at 50%.

Health Data

With the biggest use of the Apple Watch being health-related. There are many who wish to be able to synchronize their health data between devices. I fully agree with this sentiment. Specifically, I would like to have the Health Data be synchronized between all of my devices, including macOS. The reason for this is that I may want to view my health data on other devices, besides my iPhone.

If Apple were to do this, it would possibly put user’s health data at risk. Health Data is doubtlessly the most personal information that is stored on an iOS device. If Apple were to do this, they would require it to be opt-in, and probably require two confirmations before allowing the synchronization to occur. Given this, the likelihood of it occurring is very low. I think it is about 10%.

There is one other thing that would be nice from the Apple Watch and Health data. I would like to see indications from the Health app when there are anomalies with heart rate. In particular, if my heart rate spikes while not in a workout, it may be something I want to know about. The health app could do a local notification to indicate that something may be amiss. A similar thing could be done for other types of health data as well. I give this a 25% chance of happening because it would be a logical next step for looking at health data.

tvOS

tvOS is the most nascent operating system that Apple has developed. With being the youngest, it is possible that tvOS has a lot of room to grow. The downside of this though, is that tvOS is a pretty focused product, given that it is aimed at the largest screen many people own, their TV. Despite using my Apple TV for almost all of my tv and movie consumption, there is not a whole lot of functionality that I can see being added. Despite this, there is definitely room for improvement.

The only change that I can see is not directly related to tvOS, but the content. It would be nice to see 4K TV Shows and Movies available for purchase via iTunes. The downside of this is that it would require a new Apple TV box, but not necessarily an entirely new version of tvOS. I do not necessarily see Apple doing this at WWDC, this is more of a consumer-oriented item. Given how much I do not think this will happen, I think the probability of this occurring at 5%.

TV App

With tvOS 10, Apple announced the release of a new application, TV. The TV app is designed to provide you with recommendation of what to watch next. This information comes from your iTunes Library as well as any third-party applications that allow integration. This is an area where Apple could greatly improve.

There has been some concern about the lack of expansion of the third-party integration of the TV App. What Apple could do is provide even better support for third-party services.

iTunes

On the subject of iTunes, there is one major thing that I would LOVE to see, but I do not know if it will occur; a revamped iTunes. iTunes has become such a behemoth of an application. iTunes original intent was as a syncing mechanism back when all of our media was locally on our computers. That was back in 2001. 16 years later times have changed and while a percentage of individuals still synchronize their music to their computers, that number is a very small percentage. It would be nice to see Apple completely re-think iTunes. One of the hinderances from this occurring is that iTunes is also on Windows. However, Apple could give macOS a boost by providing an even better experience and keeping iTunes on Windows the way it is now.

The biggest change would be to separate out the classic iPod syncing portion to its own application. This would still allow those individuals who need to synchronize their items to be able to do so. Meanwhile, the remaining functions, Music, Podcasts, Movies, TV Shows, iTunes U, and Apps could all become their own applications. This approach would allow each of these applications to be updated on their own schedule. Alongside this, each application could have a user-interface which matches the functionality of that application.

There are two aspects to this prediction. The first is that Apple will preview a refreshed iTunes. The second is that it will be released “in the fall” (meaning when the new iPhones are released). I give this a 10% chance of happening. It is a slim chance, but still a chance.

Let me recap what my predictions for what will be unveiled at Apple’s WWDC Keynote.

Possibility Recap
Change Likelihood
macOS iMessage apps 95%
macOS Server Software Update Service going away 85%
watchOS Face being on all the time 80%
New watchOS Workout Types 70%
Third-party Apple Watch Faces 50%
Notifications about health anomalies 25%
Synchronize Health Data 10%
iTunes Refresh 10%
4K Movies and TV in iTunes 5%

Final Thoughts

Each new version of macOS and iOS include a slew of new features. This is not only because new features generate buzz and excitement, but also because new features can spark new ideas from developers. When the occurs the entire eco-system benefits. Apple benefits by increased usage, developers can profit from the features, which Apple also benefits from. Finally users get some updated applications and new capabilities on their existing devices.

Having been an iOS user since the beginning, I have seen the feature set grow from a very limited set to a very feature-rich operating system. However, that does not mean it is near complete, quite the opposite. I have been using macOS full-time for a decade now, and while its feature set was largely in place, it still has a lot of room to grow as well, just in different areas.

I do not know if any of my predictions will actually come to fruition. I guess we will see what Apple does unveil at their WWDC Keynote on June 5th, 2017 at 10:00AM Pacific.