WWDC 2020 hopes and dreams for iOS, Macs, and more

We’re now just a week away from Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, which—in case you missed the many memos—will be held virtually for the first time in its 33-year history. Last week, Apple announced the schedule for the event, confirming that it will kick off with the traditional keynote on Monday, June 22nd.

So. Start your engines and let the speculation begin. What exactly will Apple be discussing in said keynote? Which announcements will they make? What rumors will immediately dissipate into dust?

Of course, my Magic 8-Ball is only as good as any you can get from a toy store, so I can’t tell you exactly what Apple’s going to show off. But what I can tell you is what I want to see from the company. Here are a few of the things that I’m the most excited to hear about when Tim Cook steps into a virtual keynote in just seven short days.

ARMs up sleeves

Was there any doubt that the rumored ARM transition is at the top of that list? Here’s what I want to hear: that the company is finally ready to transition to its own custom-built processors, which will bring superior performance per watt, meaning both more powerful and, more importantly, more energy efficient Macs. It’s 2020: time for a Mac laptop with all day battery life.

The details are where it gets interesting. I think the top priority is for Apple to minimize disruption to developers. The company ably navigated transitions from 68k Motorola processors to PowerPC and then PowerPC to Intel, and while neither of those moves were without their hiccups, on the whole, they were pretty smooth.

I hope Apple brings its experience there to a similarly multiprong approach here. First, I hope (and fully expect) the company to say that porting most apps to the new architecture will be as simple as re-compiling in Xcode.

rosetta wwdc 2005 Apple

During the PowerPC to Intel switch, Apple had Rosetta to help developers with the transition.

Second, for the apps that may take more time and work to adapt to a new architecture, I’d hope to see a technology similar to the Rosetta translation layer that helped ease the shift to x86, so that existing Mac apps compiled can run on the new processors, even if that means a performance hit. Such a technology would be a placeholder, allowing users to keep running critical software until the developer can make a version native to Apple’s new architecture.

Finally, I’m hopeful that developers will get some sort of access to Mac hardware using the new processors. Many software creators are going to want to test their applications on real hardware before they actually go ahead and ship updates. Whether that hardware takes the form of a boring beige box with custom internals that the company offers to developers for a fee, or perhaps by letting developers install a version of macOS on an iPad Pro, I will certainly be fascinated to see. (And if lets me muck about with a version of macOS on my own iPad, well, so much the better.)