By: Gigaom
What to look for at WWDC 2012: Macs, Mountain Lion, iOS 6, maps and iCloud
The banners now decorating Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference venue indicate the event's tagline is "Where great ideas go on to do great things." It's vague, as usual, making it's hard to pinpoint what this year's theme will be. Here's what we'll be watching for on Monday.

The banners now decorating San Francisco’s Moscone Center, site of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference next, indicate the event’s tagline this year is “Where great ideas go on to do great things.” It’s vague, as usual, and with the absence of any emailed event invitation, it’s harder to pinpoint what this year’s theme will be. But if the river of leaks over the last month is any indication, this is going to be a more prominent display of hardware than in years past, especially for the Mac business.

After a software-only WWDC last year, this is going to be a welcome change for lovers of Apple gadgets — particularly for those who’ve been holding out for a new computer, a part of the business Apple hasn’t spent much time talking about in public since July 2011 when OS X Lion and new MacBooks were released.

So what will we see? Here are some educated guesses.

Macs

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the Mac, which despite ever-increasing growth has been all but ignored for basically a year in favor of its flashier and far more popular iPhone and iPad cousins. But, happily for those of us not jumping wholeheartedly into the post-PC era, it looks like WWDC 2012 will be the Mac’s time to shine. Many leaks indicate that much of the company’s Mac line is getting a tune-up.

According to a couple of reports by 9to5Mac, it looks like there will be a new Mac Pro desktop; a revamped, thinner 15-inch MacBook Pro featuring a high-resolution display similar to those on the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S and the new iPad; possibly new iMacs (though I’ve heard from my own source that new iMacs are not a sure thing for next week, so stay tuned); and updated 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Airs.

The improvements should include faster chips, faster connectivity — continuing the Thunderbolt rollout started last summer on some models — and presumably they’ll be delivered with Apple’s new desktop OS.WWDC in the era of the iPhone

Mountain Lion

Despite a recent shift toward making iOS developers its priority, Apple’s very likely going to spend time next talking about Mac software and the things third-party appmakers need to know. The company surprised a lot of people in February by suddenly dropping a preview of OS X Mountain Lion on its developer community, just nine months after the previous desktop OS, Lion, was officially released. We’ve already seen a lot of the top-line new features — some of which borrow heavily from iOS — but expect to hear about new software for Mountain Lion and, if Apple follows last year’s pattern, a solid release date and pricing.

iOS 6, maps and Facebook

A huge chunk of the 5,000 or so developers in attendance are going to be there to learn about iOS apps. As John Gruber at Daring Fireball noted recently, the schedule for the event includes an awful lot of developer sessions that are still labeled “TBA.” We know Apple loves the element of surprise, so it’s not unreasonable that many of the sessions will have to do with learning more about the new version of iOS–IOS 6–a few months before its expected launch alongside new iPhone hardware.

One of the most interesting things that could be a significant change for both users and developers is Apple’s plan for Google Maps in the new version of iOS. The Wall Street Journal essentially confirmed that Apple is ditching its rival’s ubiquitous mapping solution in favor of a homegrown version, which was built at least initially under Steve Jobs. Rumors have indicated there’s a 3D mapping feature that should be fairly impressive. And, frankly, despite Wednesday’s oddly timed and clearly defensive Google Maps event in San Francisco, Apple has to have something eye-popping to compete: Google Maps is still an excellent product.

We’ll also be watching for whether Apple reveals a change in screen size for apps in iOS 6, which would indicate a change in hardware design for the next iPhone – although that feature itself likely wouldn’t be confirmed until later this fall.

And, per Tim Cook’s hint at the AllThingsD conference last week, we could see evidence of Apple and Facebook putting aside some of their differences. Several reports have indicated that Facebook integration is coming to Apple’s mobile operating system in the same manner as Twitter, which we saw a year ago at WWDC 2011.

iCloud

This is the same conference that iCloud made its debut a year ago. Apple calls it a company “strategy for the next decade” so it’s probable we’re going to hear a lot about changes and improvements to its cloud service. What will we hear? The Journal said last month iCloud will get video syncing, and the ability to sync albums and videos across devices, share photos and whole albums outside of Photostream and allow people to comment on them.

Siri

Another possibility could be Siri. It’s a beta product that Cook recently admitted Apple “could do more” with. WWDC would be an appropriate time to talk about new features and show developers how to integrate Siri better into their apps.

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