Apple WWDC 2016 Preview: Siri Expands, Apple Music Retools

With Apple's Worldwide Developer conference just around the corner, it's time to start speculating on what Apple has planned for the June 13 event. And much of that speculation centers around Siri.

WWDC is an annual week-long get-together for Mac and iPhone developers where Apple lays out the planned changes for OS X and iOS. This year's event will run from June 13 to June 17 in San Francisco, which Siri announced back in April after enterprising iOS users asked Apple's personal assistant when WWDC would be held.

Apple has since filled in more details about WWDC on its developer site. The WWDC keynote will be held Monday, June 13 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the same venue where Apple introduced the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus last September. The remainder of the conference will be held at San Francisco's Moscone West convention center.

Details about what Apple actually plans to focus on remain scarce, though. Ask Siri for additional details — I jokingly asked if she'd be speaking at the event — and she'll direct you to Apple's developer site.

Still, we can make some guesses based on past developer conferences and rumors about this year's event, which looks like it will feature Siri in a prominent role while including a revamp of Apple Music and additional details about forthcoming changes to Apple's App Store. Here's what we're expecting at next week's WWDC.

A New Version of OS X (macOS?)

When you've got a conference hall full of developers, there's no better time to talk about changes to your desktop operating system. Look for Apple to follow the pattern of previous WWDCs by talking about the major changes it has planned for OS X, with the update to arrive by the fall.

What exactly Apple has planned for OS X 10.12 — the successor to the current El Capitan version — is unclear, other than it will likely carry the name of some California landmark like the last three OS updates. Siri support has long been rumored for OS X, so the fact that Apple announced the date of its conference through the virtual assistant could be a sly hint that Siri will be center stage this June. And 9to5Mac says that Siri will be a tentpole feature of the updated OS, residing in the Mac's menu bar.

MORE: 10 Siri Tips and Tricks Every iPhone User Should Know

OS X could also lose that X that's been a part of its name for the past 15 years or so. Apple is reportedly contemplating calling its desktop OS macOS to matching the name convention of its mobile (iOS), smartwatch (watchOS) and Apple TV (tvOS) platforms. An early draft of an environmental FAQ posted to Apple's website in April reportedly used the macOS name before Apple updated the page. And MacRumors spotted a reference to macOS on Apple's developer website in the week before WWDC.

iOS 10

Siri could also be on the agenda for the next version of Apple's mobile operating system. The Information reports that Apple will open up the digital voice assistant to outside developers, with software tools that will let them make their apps accessible to Siri. That's part of a larger effort to build a Siri-based competitor to Amazon Echo, though Apple's answer to Amazon's voice-powered speaker is a longer-range project that may not see the light of day at WWDC. (In fact, Cnet reports that the device — which could also include a camera to recognize who's in the room — may not be ready until 2017.)

MORE: How a Siri Speaker Can Beat Amazon Echo

One likely topic of conversation at WWDC figures to be Apple's plans for its App Store, with the company revealing some details of changes it's planning for the fall. While many of those changes are of greater interest to developers, including paid App Store search ads and a new revenue split with app makers, expect some changes to how you find and use apps. More apps will be able to move to a subscription model, in which app makers will be allowed to charge an annual fee. That could encourage more substantive ongoing updates to iOS apps, but it will also mean you'll need to pay to keep getting updates for apps that take advantage of Apple's new subscription options.

In addition, The Loop reports that Apple hopes to improve app discovery. Apps you will already own will get filtered out of the Featured section in the App Store to remove clutter. A Share option added to 3D Touch will let you recommend apps to others when you hard-press on their home screen icon.

Apple's developer-centric WWDC 2016 announcement.

Apple's developer-centric WWDC 2016 announcement.

Other changes planned for iOS 10 seem more speculative at this point. Apple last overhauled iOS's look with iOS 7. Subsequent updates, including last fall's iOS 9 release, have focused on enhancing the features iOS already has rather than ushering in a lot of new capabilities.

One of the new features in iOS 10 could be a standalone HomeKit app for managing smart home devices. MacRumors spotted an Amazon user review, reportedly posted by an Apple marketing employee, claiming that such an app will be in the next version of iOS.

Apple rolled out HomeKit at WWDC two years ago, touting it as a protocol for smart home devices. The first HomeKit-certified products debuted last year. But with different connected devices relying on different management apps, the experience has proven to be a headache for many users. A single HomeKit app that offers a unified experience for managing your smart devices might eliminate that headache, much in the same way that iOS's Health app provides a single location for managing health and fitness data.

Besides a HomeKit app, Apple could have more to say about expanding the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch features found in newer iPhones. And the company will reportedly unveil a way that will finally let you remove built-in apps like Stocks and Tips that you have little use for.

One mobile announcement Apple might make at WWDC may have nothing to do with iOS. Instead, the company may release a version of its iMessage messaging app for Android, according to a MacDailyNews report citing an unnamed source. Releasing an Android version of iMessage would allow iOS and Android users to send encrypted text messages to each other.

MORE: Why iMessages on Android Would Be a Big Deal

A Revamped Apple Music Service

A conference aimed at developers may seem an odd place to focus on a consumer music service, but Apple Music's launch took up a good chunk of the 2015 WWDC keynote, so announcing an overhaul of the service wouldn't be unprecedented. And that's precisely what Apple plans to do, according to a Bloomberg report that Apple plans to improve the service's interface, expand online radio and better integrate Apple Music's streaming offerings with music downloads from iTunes. These changes will be rolled out during the WWDC keynote, Bloomberg says.

MORE: 5 Ways to Fix Apple Music

9to5Mac has more details on the proposed changes, particularly on the redesigned interface. Apple will reportedly go with a more streamlined look with black and white backgrounds and text while still emphasizing album art. The changes are aimed at making Apple Music easier to navigate.

In addition, 9to5Mac reports that the revamped Apple Music will make more use of 3D Touch shortcuts while also improve the service's For You music recommendation feature. We presume that Apple will also address the iCloud Music Library issues that messed up the existing music collections of some subscribers.

Other OSes

OS X and iOS grab the headlines, but Apple has a few other operating systems to keep up-to-date as well. Apple announced watchOS 2 at last year's WWDC, and a new version will likely get a preview this June. As for hardware, the latest Apple Watch 2 rumors suggest that a new smartwatch won't appear until the fall, with the focus largely being on internal improvements.

Apple's fourth OS, tvOS, powers its Apple TV set-top box. With Apple shifting much of the focus of Apple TV toward apps, a developers' conference provides the ideal venue for getting app makers excited about creating new software for Apple's entertainment device.

New Mac Hardware

As the name of the event implies, WWDC targets developers, not consumers, so new hardware typically isn't on the agenda. However, Apple's Mac lineup has gotten a little long in the tooth, even after April's update to the 12-inch MacBook. Two products that might appeal to the developer crowd haven't seen an update in a long time — the MacBook Pro was last updated in May 2015, while the Mac Pro desktop hasn't been touched by Apple in two-and-a-half years.

Indeed, the latest MacBook rumors suggest that Apple is working on a new MacBook Pro featuring OLED touch screen keys and support for Touch ID fingerprint sensors; Apple is also reportedly prepping a 13-inch version of the MacBook. However, both 9to5Mac and MacRumors think those laptop updates will come later in the year, meaning they could be left off the agenda at WWDC.

WWDC may be completely hardware-free, though. 9to5Mac notes that Apple Stores are running out of the long-in-the-tooth Thunderbolt Display and wonders if this month's developer conference might be a good place to unveil a new model. Rumors about the updated display suggest that it will have a 5120 x 2880 resolution — that's 5K — and a dedicated external graphics processor. Switching between the display's GPU and the one in the connected Mac will be made possible by changes introduced in the next version of Mac OS X, 9to5Mac suggests. As interesting as that sounds, iMore's Rene Ritchie says it's unlikely to be announced at WWDC after talking to sources who say the focus at the developer conference will be on software.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.