Even a company like Apple
(NASDAQ:AAPL) isn't immune from the occasional public embarrassment.
One can recall Steve Jobs's uncomfortable stage gaffe at 2010's WWDC keynote when his iPhone 4's connection kept dropping, prompting a crowd member to shout "Verizon
(NYSE:VZ)!" as a solution. Then we have the very premature and very regrettable launch of Apple Maps in 2012, leading the majority of users begging for the return of Google
(NASDAQ:GOOG) Maps to their iOS devices. And then there was that mortifying moment, also in 2012, when Apple execs proudly unveiled the iPhone's new panoramic photo feature -- a function already common on other smartphones -- as some sort of bleeding-edge technology.
But while those embarrassing moments stand alone amid more focused innovation and progressive updates, this year's Worldwide Developers Conference has the potential to be a series of several humiliating moments for Apple.
Speaking with inside sources familiar with this year's lineup, Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac reveals
some of the products and highlights expected to be unveiled at the June event. At first blush, we see the usual slew of new features and a revamped platform UI typical of these annual conferences. However, on second glance, some of the purported announcements have the same "panoramic photo" feel of playing catch-up -- along with a focus on products not nearly as exciting as mobile hardware or new product lines.
First up, Gurman alleges that this year's main focus will be on Mac OS X 10.10, the next version of Apple's desktop operating system, rather than iOS 8. Although Mac users would welcome upgrades and fixes to the shockingly buggy
Mavericks, iOS commands far more interest and excitement from consumers and analysts than desktop software. (There's a reason why new versions of iWork and GarageBand aren't the showstopping toppers at the end of keynote presentations.) To drastically shift focus from iPhone and iPad software is to risk the noteworthiness of the event, as well as the fevered anticipation for iOS 8's launch date.
Making matters more disconcerting, OS X 10.10 will purportedly undergo an "end-to-end redesign," with elements looking more like iOS 7 -- a platform whose look few would consider a drastic improvement from previous versions. "The new look will have similar toggle designs to iOS 7, sharper window corners, more defined icons across the system, and more white space than the current version," Gurman writes. He also reports that Apple has shifted resources from the iOS team to OS X development to get everything finished in time for WWDC. However, on description alone, the rush seems hardly worth it.
Also on the agenda are two features that (if execs tout them with equal marvelment as panoramic photos in 2012) will sink Apple's reputation from "innovator" to "follower" in a way that would be hard to shake.
Apple will (finally) implement public transit functionality into the default Maps app after a delay that's inarguably overdue. Users will be able to access bus, train, and subway information for their commutes from Point A to Point B -- something Google Maps users have been doing since Android's formative years. But here's the kicker: Gurman says that the public transit system may not, in fact, be ready for the launch of iOS 8.0 and might be pushed back to 8.1, which could debut as late as 2015. If Apple were to make a grand announcement for public transit support in Maps and then add, "Coming in 2015," the mockery will be deafening. At this point, the company would be better off quietly adding the feature with very little fanfare, if any.
Also coming in way behind the curve is the possibility of music recognition in Apple's bumbling virtual assistant, Siri. Gurman writes that Siri will be outfitted with access to Shazam's song-identifying database to recognize tunes when prompted. It hardly seems worth noting that apps such as Shazam and SoundHound have been identifying music since the second-generation iPhone, or that Google Search has been capable of doing the same for a while. Unless the service has a whiz-bang feature such as invoking lyrics that scroll in sync with the ambient music -- which SoundHound already does -- this is yet another shamefully late and meager addition to iOS functionality.
Of course, Apple can always save face with the larger-screened iPhone 6, and there's the possibility that it could blindside everyone with a groundbreaking update to the Apple TV set-top box or the unexpected debut of the iWatch -- both of which Gurman says are possible. But Apple's shift in focus to Mac OS X and the unforgivably late addition of two well-tread services -- which might not even be available until next year -- could negate any marginally innovative product it has in store.
And if that were to happen, especially if the company attaches even the slightest bit of hubris or braggadocio to the proceedings, there won't be a panoramic photo large enough to capture Apple's embarrassment on stage.
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