Apple's top brass will take to a San Francisco stage next week to show off the company's plans for the coming year, and maybe even introduce a new product or two. Here's what to expect from the Worldwide Developers Conference this year:
Music to your ears: Apple's biggest announcement is expected to be the launch of its new music service, which reports indicate will cost $10 per month and compete with both Spotify -- which lets users call up songs on-demand -- and streaming radio services such as Pandora.
Apple completely changed the face of music with the 1998 introduction of iTunes, which more or less killed the CD. Now, however, streaming makes up an estimated 27 percent of the U.S. music industries revenue, up from 21 percent in 2013. Music downloads still make up the majority of revenue, but are on a downward trajectory -- giving Apple a lot of motivation to get into the streaming world.
Apple may seem like a latecomer here, but carries the advantage of being able to bake its music service into the iPhone, iPod and Mac. If Apple comes up with something that "just works" and is competitive on price, which reports indicate it will be, then it may not be late to the party after all.
What about TV?: For months, there's been speculation that Apple was going to release both a new package for television service and a new music service at this year's WWDC. But recent reports indicate that the TV service is no longer planned to be part of the announcement.
As The Post's Cecilia Kang reported, Apple found it too hard to agree with broadcasters and other content providers on the terms it would need to offer a slim bundle of channels to its customers for a monthly rate. Kang reports that the service is expected to be announced in the coming months, but likely not in time for viewers to pick it up for the beginning of the fall TV season.
Get smart: The first devices running Apple's HomeKit have already hit the market, a year after the company first announced its push into the smart home market at 2014's WWDC. An Apple document indicates that the company wants the Apple TV to be the hub of the smart home -- others' devices will talk to the TV, which in turn can be controlled by iOS devices such as the iPhone or iPad.
The document also says that users will be able to group accessories and control them by using Siri, Apple's voice assistant. "Depending on the app you use for your HomeKit-enabled accessories, you might be able to group accessories together in homes, rooms, or scenes," the document says. "This is useful if you want to control a group of accessories with a single Siri command."
On watch for the Watch: Apple's kept pretty tight reins on its latest gadget, the Apple Watch, but the New York Times reports that the company will release a new tool kit for developers to give them a little more room to play with the device. To date, the Watch's apps have been fairly restrained, often carefully curated versions of existing iPhone apps. A new developer's kit could throw the gates open -- or at least hold the door politely -- for more innovation on the Watch.
Meanwhile, it's also about to get much easier to buy Apple's watch. The company said Thursday that that it will sell the device in its stores within the next two weeks. In a press release, the company also said that all orders placed through May will be filled within two weeks with the exception of one model: the 42 mm Space Black Stainless Steel model with the Space Black Link Bracelet.
Software updates: Other than the music service, updates to iOS and Mac OS X will probably be the company's main product announcements. (Hardware is not normally on the WWDC agenda. This tends to be mostly a software show -- its audience is, after all, ostensibly developers and not consumers.)
Apple introduced a lot of change to both operating systems last year -- HomeKit, HealthKit, more on Apple Pay, all of Yosemite etc. -- and so many are expecting this to be a year devoted more to polishing and refining both systems. 9 to 5 Mac's Mark Gurman reports in a very comprehensive post that the main changes are expected to be a refreshed user interface and font for both systems, as well as security and stability improvements and support for Apple's expected music service.
Another thing of note from Gurman's report? Possible support for split-screen apps on the iPad, which means you would better be able to multitask.