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Apple WWDC: 8 Things To Expect

Apple's annual worldwide developer conference kicks off next week. From iOS to MacBook Air, we expect big hardware and software news, plus a few surprises.

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Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference begins on Monday, June 11, and the company is expected to make an unusually large number of product introductions. This is partly the result of the delayed availability of Intel's Ivy Bridge line of processors, which began appearing in late April and have only recently become available in volume to meet Apple's needs. Now that Intel's chips are here, Apple appears to be preparing to update a large portion of its hardware line. If you're considering a Mac hardware purchase this weekend, you might want to wait a day or two.

Here's what we're likely to see, based on industry speculation and parts lists obtained by Mac news sites AppleInsider and 9-to-5 Mac.

1) iOS and OS X. Apple has said it plans to discuss OS X and iOS with its developers. That means OS X Mountain Lion, which was released in preview form for developers in February. And it may mean a developer beta of iOS 6, or a preview of iOS 6 to be released to developers at a later date. Mountain Lion is mostly a known quantity. Though there are sure to be a few surprises, Apple has provided details of the major new Mountain Lion features on its website. iOS 6 remains an unknown quantity, except perhaps for its expected shift away from Google's map technology, seen in the Maps app available on all iOS devices. Google's announcement on Wednesday of offline Maps for Android and improved 3D terrain for Google Earth--weeks before those features will be available--appears to be an effort to ensure that Apple's anticipated foray into mapping doesn't woo iPhone and iPad users away from Google Maps, which should remain accessible in user-installable iOS apps from Google.

[ InformationWeek's Fritz Nelson will be live blogging Apple's WWDC event, June 11 at 10 PST/1 EST. Join us at Monday for all the details. ]

Apple is believed to be ready to unveil its own map technology, which presumably will include new APIs for developers, an updated Google-free iOS map app from Apple, and perhaps a similar OS X app.

2) Mac Pro. High-end desktop workstations haven't exactly been where Apple or its competitors have been focused of late. Laptops and mobile devices have been what consumers and many businesses have been buying. But the professional graphics and content creation market remains an important one. Designers and other content creators have been some of Apple's most loyal customers and Apple takes loyalty very seriously. New Mac Pro models are coming, likely with Intel Xeon E5 chips.

3) MacBook Pro. Refreshed last October, the MacBook Pro is said to be getting a high-resolution Retina Display. Introduced in Apple's iPhone 4 and added earlier this year to Apple's third-generation iPad, the Retina Display offers exceptionally vivid graphics and has yet to be matched by competitors, despite being made by a major competitor, Samsung. The MacBook Pro might also be getting a USB 3 port, in addition to its presumed Thunderbolt connector.

4) iMac. With a design dating back to October 2009, the iMac also is ready for a refresh, despite processor improvements since then. The primary feature of the two new iMac models, aside from an up-to-date processor, is expected to be the addition of a Retina Display.

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