WWDC 2024 will be the least exciting Apple event of the year but also the most important one – here’s why you should watch it

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WWDC 2024 will be the least exciting Apple event of the year but also the most important one – here’s why you should watch it

Software is dull. Platforms, the software that underpins all applications, might even be duller. WWDC 2024, which will feature a conference devoted to platforms and a keynote on Monday at 1PM ET that will spend up to two hours talking about software that almost all ends in “OS” sounds deadly. I get it, but once you consider that a change in operating systems is akin to removing your brain, and possibly the circulatory, muscles, and skeletal systems from your body and replacing them with new parts, it might sound, if not more interesting, then at least a lot more important.

Depending on the scale of change across iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS, and visionOS the hardware throughout Apple’s vaunted ecosystem could look and work considerably different than they do right now.

Considering we know (or believe) Apple will unveil its own brand of AI – hello, “Apple Intelligence” – it’s almost a given that the changes will go deep and broad. They will change some of the fundamental aspects of how these platforms work but will also extend to simple day-to-day interactions with the systems. Think of it as an intelligence that goes deeper for more proactive systems but also surfaces at the top to connect the dots between Apple’s hardware, applications, and services.

Momentous upgrades

I think Apple might use AI to make every piece of hardware more self-aware. iPhones and iPads that know their home screens and can intuit your interests by how you’ve organized them. I’m hoping Apple doesn’t force feed “Apple Intelligence,” but I’m also ready for tvOS that auto-organizes the home page and learns and relearns my current binge interests, and an Apple Watch that understands my morning routine well enough to automatically load a functional workout at 5:30 AM.

Apple cannily gets that to causal observers WWDC’s software and development focus feels as dry and antiseptic as a CPU clean room, so it usually fills the keynote with relatable moments, highlighting how each new feature can improve a consumer’s life.

The challenge is a bit different this time. For consumers, it’s been two years of hearing how AI will improve their lives, a sentiment they have a hard time believing when AI’s been full of bias and appears ready to take their jobs (it’s really not), the chatbots and large language models still get so much wrong, and AI development companies capriciously overreach. Some reports have Apple climbing into an algorithmic bed with OpenAI, the leading company for all things AI, but also the same firm that causally (or accidentally) ripped off Scarlett Johanssan’s voice.

To counter this, Apple’s WWDC 2024 keynote must not only inspire consumers, it has to reassure them. Caution and care, especially about AI and privacy, are important, but they’re a lot less sexy, which means Apple’s efforts to inspire may need twice the effort.

Inescapable

Of course, that’s the show part of the keynote, the flash that will inspire thousands of stories about every facet of iOS 18, iPadOS 18, tvOS 18, watchOS11, and visionOS 2. These stories are less about why you should eventually upgrade than they’ll be about what’s coming.

In Apple’s ecosystem, unlike Android, there is ultimately no escaping upgrades. They come to all iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, and Apple Watches. Your world will change. You may not want the change, you may not understand it, but you will live it. Maybe you should get excited about it. I know that’s a tall order, though.

As I said at the start, operating systems are usually confusing and dull. I think back almost 30 years to the launch of Windows 95 and how Microsoft worked for at least the prior 18 months to educate people on the existence of this new platform. They succeeded to the point that I couldn’t run into a friend or family member in the summer of 1995 who didn’t have a question about it. None were excited about the prospect, but at least they knew what to expect from new Windows PCs.

For Apple fans, that’s why WWDC 2024 matters. There will rarely be the big Vision Pro level moment, but considering we now live our lives through this technology virtually every word out of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s mouth (and those of his colleagues) will end up mattering to you.

That’s sexy in a scary kind of way, right?

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