Marzipan, Mac Pro, and iPad features: A wish list for WWDC19

What Dan Moren is looking (and hoping) for at Apple’s annual event.

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Apple’s annual extravaganza is just around the corner. By the time my next column rolls around, we’ll know all the secrets that Apple has been sitting on for the last year. (Well, many of those secrets, anyway.) The only real question is whether Apple executives will be going with untucked or tucked-in shirts? The excitement is palpable.

The Worldwide Developers Conference keynote is always a big high for the Apple-following community: wishes get fulfilled, hopes get dashed, and things appear that we never saw coming—and yet seem, in hindsight, totally obvious.

Everybody has their own list of things they want or expect to see. So, as we cast our glances forward a few days, here’s a rundown of the things that I’ll be looking to hear about when Tim Cook and his motley crew take the stage just a few days from now.

Marzipanning for gold

Make no mistake about it: Marzipan—the codename reputedly given to the collection of technologies that allow iOS apps to run on the Mac—is the star of the show. Not because it’s the flashiest or most impressive announcement that Apple’s likely to make, but because it's the most significant. It'll dictate the direction of both of Apple’s most prominent software platforms for years to come.

wwdc 2018 ios apps on mac Apple

Expect to see more about Marzipan and how it's used to bring iOS apps to the Mac.

The current Marzipan apps on the Mac are little more than proofs of concept. This year we’ll find out whether this process yields not just viable apps, but good ones. There’s at least one major mark in Apple’s favor here: the company has been through a lot of transitions on the Mac, from Motorola processors to PowerPC, from classic Mac OS to Mac OS X, and from PowerPC to Intel. Along the way, it’s learned how to make these transitions as smooth and non-disruptive as possible to its users. There’s probably no tech company out there with more experience in the transition department, so the company can hopefully leverage that expertise to go beyond smooth and all the way to seamless.

This transition might also hint at future developments to come. Could ARM Macs be in store? What about Macs with touch interfaces? Even if Apple doesn’t announce these at the keynote, eagle-eyed developers will no doubt be cracking into the new code that's available, and if there are any clues to be found there, I wouldn’t bet against them being ferreted out.

Going Pro

The Mac Pro isn’t likely to be one of Apple’s best-selling computers, but if there’s one place it’s likely to get a warm reception, it’s at this gigantic collection of Mac and iOS developers. They’ve been waiting for the modular professional desktop since Apple first teased it back in April 2017, and this sure seems like the right place for the company to show it off for the first time.

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What's next for the Mac Pro?

A lot hangs on this Mac Pro, especially after the much-ballyhooed introduction of its predecessor back at WWDC 2013. But that Mac Pro proved to be not quite what pro users were looking for—unfortunate, given they were the primary audience, and it eventually languished into irrelevance.

With two years of nearly silent work on the project, Apple can definitely point to taking the time to make sure it gets this iteration of the Mac Pro right, but we won’t know until users get their hands on it whether or not it succeeded. Given the company’s recent release of high-end iMacs and the iMac Pro, it seems like Apple’s definitely investing in keeping pro users happy. But we’ll have to wait until the heady atmosphere of the announcement clears before we find out whether or not a new Mac Pro delivers.

iPadding it out

I’m perhaps most excited to see where Apple is poised to take the iPad with the release of iOS 13. Last year was a fallow year for the tablet, and in the meantime, there have definitely been places where the iPad has started to strain at the seams as power users press it up against its limits. The latest iPad hardware is truly remarkable—now it’s time for Apple to deliver software that makes the most of that power.

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WWDC19 could be filled with iOS 13 features that are specific to the iPad.

Rumors of revamped multitasking interfaces, a new home screen, and other features aimed at professionals have been rampant in the run-up to WWDC. But similar rumors have failed to materialize in past years, so it remains to be seen exactly which kind of year this is.

Finally, while “expect the unexpected” is perhaps a cliché, with Apple, it’s never a bad course of action. The company prides itself on secrecy, even though it seems like more and more of its plans make their way into the public arena before Apple gets to announce them. But for all of that, Cupertino still does a good job of playing its cards close to its vest, so I wouldn't be shocked if there were still some surprises left to dole out.

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