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What to expect from Apple at WWDC 2015

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Didn't we just wrap up a developer conference? Never mind that -- Apple's WWDC kicks off in earnest on Monday, June 8th, and we'll be there to liveblog the finer points of the morning's keynote (and bring you some sweet hands-on coverage too, if we get the chance). With just three days left on the calendar before Tim Cook and company take the stage at Moscone West in San Francisco, let's take a nice, leisurely run through what we expect Apple to show off once the weekend draws to a close.

Our first peek at iOS 9

Apple's next big iOS release won't start hitting phones and tablets until later this year, but we're expecting to get our first proper glimpse of it this Monday. Just don't expect any dramatic design leaps like we got with iOS 7. Typeface nerds might appreciate (or loathe) the Apple Watch's San Francisco font, which will reportedly become the standard for iOS, and that's probably about as big as the visual changes get. Speaking of the Watch, iOS 9 will also reportedly come with deep-seated hooks for Force Touch, so the next-generation of Apple's phones and tablets will probably crib some interaction tricks from Apple's wearable.

Beyond that, it looks like one new feature -- currently known as "Proactive" -- could steal the show. 9to5Mac reports that it'll basically replace the Spotlight search menu and live in a separate home screen panel to the left of all your apps (you know, the same place where Google Now lives on stock Android devices). From its perch over there, Proactive will draw on information from "apps, contacts and maps" and try to surface the right data at the right time. Got a dinner reservation on the books? Proactive might remind you when to leave and bring up driving directions in the nick of time. Speaking of travel, iOS 9 should also finally sport transit directions so you won't have to bother figuring out the differences between the L, N, Q and 6 trains.

With the first HomeKit-friendly gadgets now on store shelves, it shouldn't shock you to hear that Apple might show off a "Home" app as part of iOS 9. It'll act as a control center for various Internet of Things devices, which you'll also be able to fiddle with while you're at the office or running around the park. To top it all off, Apple's apparently been working to iron out bugs and inconsistencies and to make sure that iOS 9 will work fine on older devices like the iPhone 4s. With new iPhones and iPads expected to arrive this September, there's a pretty strong argument for ditching your old Apple hardware anyway, but it's nice to see that hangers-on won't get the shaft.

What about Macs?

So we're definitely going to get a peek at the new version of OS X -- that's 10.11 for those keeping count -- but the rumored changelog isn't a super-long one. As with iOS 9, Apple has focused on refining its desktop software instead of making flashy leaps forward. That's not to say the update will be completely bereft of new doodads, though: You'll apparently be able to bring up an iOS-like Control Center with quick access to settings by swiping left on your Mac's trackpad. Throw in a security system called "Rootless" that will keep even administrators from futzing around with highly sensitive system files, and you've got a version of OS X that puts a big emphasis on security and stability.

Oh, and we wouldn't bank on seeing much in the way of new Mac hardware either. Apple just refreshed its 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro and cut prices on its 27-inch 5K iMac in late May; factor in the launch of the MacBook and changes we've already seen to the existing Pro and Air lines, and there's just not much left to touch. Sure, it's possible we'll see updates to the Mac Pro, but we're not convinced just yet. (A note to Cupertino: Please prove us wrong!)

The beat goes on

If the incessant whirring of the rumor mill is any hint, Apple will finally pull back the curtain on its Apple Music service onstage during the show. Think of the experience as a mash-up between Beats Music (which Apple shelled out $3 billion for) and the existing Music app on your iDevice -- tunes from both sources are said to live in seamless harmony, so you'll be able to search for and play whatever you need when the mood strikes. You can expect to pay about $10 a month for the privilege, just like you would for Spotify, but you might be able to score a free trial of up to three months.

The thing is, recent reports suggest a debut at WWDC might be less guaranteed than we'd initially thought. Bloomberg claims that while Apple indeed aims to launch its streaming-music service on Monday, it still hasn't completely locked down all the necessary deals with record labels. We can't imagine Apple not pulling out whatever big guns are needed to sew this whole thing up, though.

Sadly, Apple's secretive TV project doesn't seem to be doing so hot either. Reports suggested that we'd see both new Apple TV hardware (with Siri) and a new subscription TV service that would bundle about 25 channels into a package for which you'd pay about $30 or $40. Now it looks like neither will show up in San Francisco, and it all comes down to those pesky licensing deals again. While it's likely that an updated Apple TV will make an appearance this September next to some new iPhones, the worst-case scenario for that streaming service is a launch delay until 2016. Yeowch.

And finally, the Watch

Love it or hate it, the Apple Watch is the next big frontier for Apple's legions of app creators. Right now, the Watch can't do much unless it's wirelessly tethered to an iPhone, but Apple's going to unveil the developer tools needed to start creating apps for the Watch itself. That means we'll soon get a load of apps that take direct advantage of the Watch's horsepower, rather than run on an iPhone and transfer information to the Watch via Bluetooth. Of course, who knows what sort of toll that will take on the Watch's battery life -- hopefully some forthcoming software updates free up a little more juice for those apps to play with.

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