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Five things to watch ahead of Apple’s WWDC conference

Last October, Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the new iPad Air in San Francisco.  (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

It's that time again.

We're just weeks away from Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, and the rumors are flying about what the tech giant might have in store. WWDC, as the conference is more commonly known, takes place in the first week of June.

It used to be the stage for major product releases such as the iPhone. More recently, though, it's become the venue for announcements about changes to Apple's mobile and desktop operating systems and for news about the company's software and service plans. Here are five of the top rumors circulating as we head into WWDC:

Beats: Rumors of an Apple-Beats acquisition are flying everywhere, and the suspicion is that whatever Apple could be planning with the electronics firm could come to light as the crown jewel of the company's keynote speeches. Apple chief executive Tim Cook could also take the opportunity to name Beats Electronics executives Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre to executive positions within Apple, according to a report from Billboard. Both would bring much-valued music industry connections to the firm.

What Apple may want with the electronics company isn't totally clear, though the most logical thing would be to integrate Iovine and Dre's deep experience and work on Beats Music -- a recently launched streaming music service -- to improve Apple's own iTunes services.

Apple has declined to comment on the Beats reports.

iWatch?: The chances, honestly, don't look that great for those who hope that we'll get an "iWatch" -- the popular blogger-assigned name for Apple's rumored wearable -- next month. But there is a decent chance that Apple will be dancing around the edges of the wearable market by launching a health-data app called Healthbook.

As reported by 9 to 5 Mac's Mark Gurman, the new application is expected to pull together various banks of health data from places such as third-party fitness-tracking bands and bracelets. Given recent moves by Samsung and Facebook to snap up more health data as well as the general popularity of fitness devices, it would make sense for Apple  to move into this area sooner rather than later.

Multitasking and other iOS 8 features: Gurman, who has a strong, proven track record when it comes to leaks, has also reported that iOS 8 will get true multitasking, with a split-screen feature that lets users run two iPad applications at once.

Both Microsoft's Surface and a variety of Samsung devices already offer this type of feature, but it's very exciting to Apple users who've wanted this option for a while.

Other iOS 8 features expected include improvements to iCloud and the Apple applications (such as iBooks, the iWork suite and others) and improvements to its Maps app to include public transit directions. However, Gurman has reported, some of the features originally tipped for iOS 8 may be moved back to a later update.

OS X: Analysts and bloggers also expect to see a graphical revamp of OS X at the conference this year, which would put Apple right in line with its normal release schedule. Last year, the company unveiled OS X 10.9, a.k.a. Mavericks, pulling more features from iOS and kicking off a new naming scheme for the Mac operating system that moved Apple from big cats to notable California locations.

According to Gurman, much of WWDC will be focused the features of OSX 10.10, though there's no indication of which California landmark will be honored in this latest version.

Given the major redesign that Apple recently made to iOS 7 -- flatter design, brighter colors -- it's not surprising that it would look to give a similar makeover to its desktop operating system. That said, Apple has been pretty clear that it doesn't have plans to completely merge its two operating systems, so don't expect things to get too unified.

Other hardware: You didn't think we'd forget this, did you? But if you're hoping for a new iPhone -- big-screened or not -- or even new computers, things aren't looking to good. Signs aren't that strong that Apple will make any major hardware announcements at this year's show, though there is a bit of chatter that the company might be looking to release a revamped version of its set-top box, the Apple TV.

But even those prospects look dim at best, especially since Re/Code's John Pczkowski reported earlier this month, citing unnamed "sources familiar" with Apple's plans,  that a new Apple TV (or an iWatch, for that matter) is just not in the cards.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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