Apple WWDC speculation heats up: 5 best bets

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference starts Monday with a keynote from Steve Jobs. What surprises does he have in store?

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) gets underway Monday in San Francisco, and speculation is rampant over what revelations CEO Steve Jobs has planned. Here are my five top picks.

1) New iPhone: OK, this one's pretty much a lock. Not only has Apple made an annual tradition of debuting its newest phone creation in June, but recent media leaks involving lost iPhone prototypes and barrooms, bloggers, and backroom deals show that the next-gen iPhone is good to go. So the question is, which of the features we've seen so far will make the final cut? The new, less curvy design? The 1 GHz processor? And how about that front-facing video camera? Oh, enlighten us, Mr. Jobs.

2) A make-good for 3G iPad buyers: Did AT&T's $30 per month unlimited data plan for the 3G iPad sound too good to be true? Apparent it was. AT&T killed its all-you-can-eat offering this week, replacing it with new usage-based plans that take effect June 7. AT&T says that 3G iPad owners who signed up for the $30 unlimited deal can stick with it--for now.

As Macworld's Dan Frakes points out, AT&T has pulled a "switcheroo" on iPad buyers who, drawn by the promise of unlimited data, were willing to pay an extra $130 for the 3G model. Should Apple make amends? There is some precedent here. When Apple lowered the cost of the original iPhone by $200 about two months after its June 2007 debut, it offered a $100 store credit to early buyers who'd paid the introductory price. Even if AT&T is to blame for the data-plan mess, Apple would earn brownie points by tossing 3G iPad buyers a bone.

3) An iPhone OS 4.0 surprise: Yes, Apple has already released details about the latest iPhone OS. But as my PCWorld colleague Ian Paul pointed out in April, the company is fond of revealing surprises at WWDC. One such announcement could be iChat for the iPhone, which would fit nicely with the next-gen iPhone's (alleged) front-facing camera.

4) Addressing Foxconn suicides: The company that manufactures a lot of Apple hardware, as well as devices for other tech giants including Dell and HP, has been hit by a wave of suicides at its factories in China. While Foxconn's suicide rate may not exceed China's national average (and in fact may be below it), the grim news furthers the perception that those shiny iPhones, iPods, and iPads loved by Westerns are produced in sweatshops by exploited, underpaid workers. Apple has publicly announced that it's "saddened" by the Foxconn deaths, but the WWDC would be a good opportunity for Jobs to announce more aggressive steps by Apple--and, to be fair, by the rest of the tech industry--to address the ongoing criticism of workplace conditions in Asian factories.

5) Lala announcement: Apple has shuttered the online Lala music service that it bought last year. There's speculation the company will turn Lala in a Web-based iTunes storefront, but Apple, in characteristic tight-lipped fashion, isn't talking. Why not spill the beans at WWDC?

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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Jeff Bertolucci

PC World (US online)
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