The Lull before the Storm

Like Its Rivals, Apple Is Set to Use This Summer to Prepare for a Fourth-Quarter Frenzy

As I make my way to San Francisco for Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, I’m reflecting on what we may hear from Tim Cook and his executives.

One thing’s for sure — the frenzy that’s characterized previous Apple events is likely to be a little more muted. Like many of its competitors, Apple’s having to catch its breath. Announcements might be limited to news of updates to the software building blocks that will drive the next generation of Apple mobile devices.

We might see the first fruits of Jonathan Ive’s appointment as head of software and hardware development, but I don’t think we’ll see the full impact until later this year. Mr Ive will want to show off some of his trademark style and simplicity as part of the announcements, but I sense there’s far more to come.

I expect Apple to concentrate on updates to Apple’s two software pillars, iOS and OS X. I predict each will reflect more of the other, but Apple will stop short of the full merger of the two operating systems that some have suggested.

Of course there’s sure to be some shiny new hardware on display, perhaps in Apple’s Mac line-up, but, as Apple has already indicated, entirely new iPhone and iPad designs are more likely to emerge in September in time for the holiday season.

Apple isn’t alone in entering a holding pattern this summer. At Google’s I/O developer conference in May, the Web giant used its most important annual event to unveil improvements to already announced products as well software updates to Maps, Android and Google Glass, among others.

Google is still coping after the astonishing uptake of Android. As it draws breath, it’ll be concentrating on its new search and AdWord platform as the background structure for developments in Android. I expect we’ll see the results of that in September.

Microsoft, vying to be the “third ecosystem”, holds its developer conference, Build, in late June. It’s likely to emphasise the improvements offered by Intel’s new Haswell and Bay Trail chips, which should bring huge advances for Windows 8 PCs and Microsoft-powered tablets. To accompany these advances, Microsoft’s sure to renew efforts to rescue Windows 8 from the inertia that seems to have overcome the PC market.

I expect the tone of some of the reporting from San Francisco on Monday and Tuesday will concentrate as much on what is not announced as what is. I’m confident this is the calm before a storm of product and software introductions from Apple — and others — in the autumn.