Apple holds its annual Worldwide Developers Conference starting on Monday, though this year it will be entirely virtual and online. The conference kicks off, as usual however, with a keynote address by CEO Tim Cook and others, starting at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT. Many other sessions that used to held in person will be switched to videos that anyone can watch on their own schedule.
As WWDC is a conference for software developers, the people who write apps for the iPhone, Mac, and other Apple devices, the emphasis will be on software. Apple will unveil new versions of the operating systems running on all its devices, including iOS 14 for iPhones and the 16th version of its MacOS software for laptops and desktops. Apple also sometimes uses WWDC to announce new gadgets or other hardware news and that could be a major focus in 2020.
Here are three important developments to watch for at WWDC:
After rumors for several years, it appears that this will be the year that Apple announces that it’s moving its Mac laptops and desktop from Intel’s microprocessor architecture. Intel has been struggling for several years to increase chip performance, a development that has reportedly delayed Apple’s hardware plans in the past. At the same time, Apple has been designing its own line of chips for iPads and iPhones using a microprocessor architecture licensed from ARM and manufactured by Taiwan Semiconductor.
Lately, the performance of Apple’s homebuilt phone chips has surpassed some of those made by Intel for laptops. Analysts say that if Apple adapted its phone chips for laptops and desktops, which have more electrical power available than a phone, they might blow away even Intel’s top chips.
At WWDC, Apple is expected to announce the shift so that developers can prepare their programs to run on machines with the new chips. Consumers likely won’t be able to buy the new machines until next year, Bloomberg has reported.
Updating the home screen
Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 and has released a new version almost every year since. Some editions contained major upgrades and others were more incremental, but one thing has stayed almost exactly the same since the beginning: the home screen. Unlike Android phones that allow users to customize their home screens and add small app features known as widgets, the iPhone’s home screen has remained stuck as a rectangular grid of app icons.
That could change in iOS 14, according to people who have dug into the code of test releases of the upcoming operating system. The long-running code that manages the home screen, known as Springboard, may get new features such as widgets under a project code-named Avocado, web site 9to5Mac reported in April.
Tim Cook has said that Apple’s biggest contribution to society will be in the area of health. So far, that has largely been in features for the Apple Watch. The watch, which started out tracking exercise and activities, gained the ability to take electrocardiogram readings two years ago. Rumors over the past few years have suggested that Apple is trying to add a blood pressure sensor, sleep tracking, and other health-related features. Apple has also been working on software to aggregate people’s digital health records in one place.
Adding some of those new health features may require updates to the watch’s hardware and that means Apple may wait until the fall when it introduces the next generation of the watch to divulge them.
Still, there have been clues in beta software for the watch. Rumored features include measuring oxygen levels in the blood, detecting panic attacks, and built-in sleeptracking (which is currently available via some third-party apps).
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