WWDC 2024 Predictions

I’ve attempted to stay spoiler-free in the days leading up to WWDC, so I haven’t really read any rumors for what may be coming up. I don’t have many expectations this year, and since Apple has so much low-hanging fruit to pull from, I’d be surprised if they don’t pick from that tree.

Hardware  

  • I don’t believe Apple will be announcing or releasing any new hardware at this event. 

Software (macOS and iOS)  

  • As I’ve said in the past, I hope that they focus on fixing bugs in macOS vs. adding new features this year, but I highly doubt that will happen.
  • Apple will focus on “AI” (duh) with a privacy focus (duh x2). 
  • I’m sticking with the prediction I made earlier this month that their branding will be “Apple Intelligence.”
  • AI capabilities as a digital assistant will certainly come from the data in many of Apple’s core apps, such as Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Notes, Mail, Messages, and maybe even Health and core settings info like Apple ID and Location Services. 
  • Shortcuts and automations will be created for you using these new AI capabilities.
  • I’m not sure how impressive prerecorded demos of AI will be, so perhaps Apple will return to a live presentation format with live demos.

iPad OS  

  • I’m highly doubtful of any meaningful changes to iPadOS this year. My thought is that a lot of resources have been focused on AI and possibly VisionOS. I’d love to be wrong about this. As always, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit that Apple could pick, but I’m not holding my breath. 

As in past years, I’ll share my thoughts on the state of the iPad and iPadOS. Looking back at the eve of WWDC 2021, I wrote:

Apple has had a long time to get their act together with the iPad. Each year, WWDC comes and goes, and maybe iPadOS will get a few tweaks. Apple has never shown us a complete vision of what the iPad and iPadOS should be. Imagine if the Mac took this long to reveal to us the kind of computer platform Apple was envisioning, no one would be using it today.

The slow trickle of features that should have been released years ago can often feel like getting a drop of water in the middle of the desert. Two years ago, Apple finally allowed us to use a mouse or trackpad with the iPad. We didn’t get much in terms of new iPadOS features last year. My hope is that this year, they finally tackle the mess that is multitasking in iPadOS.

Then in 2022:

2022 really feels like a make it or break it year for the iPad. With the macOS transition to Apple Silicon, the reasons to get an iPad over a laptop are dwindling. Almost all of the iPad’s advantages have been trumped by the current line of M1 MacBooks. They offer better battery life, more built-in ports, multi-tasking that doesn’t feel like you’re working with one arm tied behind your back, just to name a few. It feels like the iPad’s selling points boil down to cellular connectivity, Apple Pencil support, touch interface, tablet form factor, and ability to use iOS based software. While there are power users that do get all of their work done on the iPad, they are very few professionals that I know that can.

Then in 2023:

The iPad hardware continues to be much more powerful than the software. As each WWDC passes, it feels as if Apple has lost the drive to make the iPad the future of computing. It’s like they’ve gotten cold feet and have decided not to go all-in with iPadOS, but they can’t just abandon it. Instead, they inch along each year, dangling a new feature that power users have been craving with each iPadOS release but ultimately never committing to the promise that separating iPadOS from iOS should have provided. It’s been extremely frustrating to watch iPadOS stagnate year after year. Once the Mac moved to Apple Silicon, there really wasn’t a strong case for me to continue struggling to do power user stuff on an iPad when I could just use my Mac and have all of the benefits that the iPad has hardware-wise with no downsides. Aside from the tablet features, there is almost no advantage to using an iPad Pro with a magic keyboard case when an M2 MacBook Air exists. I do wonder if Tim Cook still uses his iPad for everything.

Since then, I’ve stopped waiting for Apple to make iPadOS better for power users and have just focused on using my Mac for work and the iPad for consumption. A majority of my day is spent doing work on a MacBook Pro M2, where I can do everything easily and without feeling constrained. Automations, using multiple clipboards, multitasking between apps, manipulating files, and app windows are all things that I can do on the Mac without concern. I haven’t really been able to do a lot of that with my iPad, so I stopped trying. In a way, I’ve given up hope that Apple will do anything more than incremental updates to make iPadOS more powerful. 

When Apple switched its Mac lineup to use Apple Silicon, it may have changed the company’s vision for the iPad. Apple Silicon brought features that were previously standout qualities of the iPad, such as excellent battery life and impressive processing power, to the Mac. As a result, it’s possible that Apple decided that there was no longer a need for the iPad to try to match the Mac’s capabilities.

Overall, I’m okay with this. For many people, iPadOS works perfectly well, and they appreciate both its simplicity and its limitations. The iPad is an ideal device for them. However, for power users who want the iPad to do much more, it feels like there will always be a gap between what they expect from the iPad and what it actually offers.

I’d love for Apple to blow my mind with some powerful new features in iPadOS that take advantage of the M4 in the shiny new iPad Pro, but if that doesn’t materialize, that’s fine too. Apple will push the envelope when it makes sense for them, and it always has. Perhaps power users need to acknowledge that the “Pro” in iPad Pro just means “premium,” and perhaps that’s all that it will ever be.