What to expect from Apple and Steve Jobs at WWDC

Some of the suspense has been muted, but there are still answers to what we don't know

Within hours, Apple CEO Steve Jobs will walk onto a San Francisco stage and pitch his company's newest products. Here's what's coming.

Within hours, Apple CEO Steve Jobs will walk onto a San Francisco stage and pitch his company's newest products.

But what's he going to shill and shuck? After all, didn't Gizmodo spill the pot o' beans in April when it grabbed the Web's attention -- and Apple's -- with the iPhone prototype?

True, but there's still plenty we don't know about Jobs' keynote at the company's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), ranging from the official confirmation of Gizmodo's findings to the date when Apple will ship the iPhone OS 4 upgrade. Based on conversations with analysts and experts over the last several months, we think we have some answers to the outstanding questions.

Will Jobs pull a new iPhone from his pocket? Does a bear use the great outdoors for his personal Porta-Potty?

Not only has Apple unveiled a new iPhone at the last two WWDCs -- though Jobs was absent last year -- but the clues this year have piled up faster than a tween's cell phone overage charges. Last week's naming of today by AT&T as the official start of its new capped data plans was only the most recent one.

Will I be able to buy a new iPhone today? Depends on what you mean by 'buy.'

The chance you'll have one in hand by day's end is slim-to-none. But we're assuming Apple follows protocol, and makes it available for pre-order today from its online store.

When will the new iPhone hit Apple's stores? Jobs knows. We don't.

But by again turning to the short historical record, the iPhone could go on sale at retail and reach customers who pre-ordered as early as June 18 or as late as July 9, assuming the time between WWDC and on-sale are identical to 2009 and 2008 , respectively.

Bet on an early Friday launch: It's Apple's favorite day of the week for new iPhones, and Apple has opened stores significantly early to accommodate eager customers.

What's it going to cost me? The same as before.

Most analysts have bet that Apple will keep prices at $99, $199 and $299 -- unless it throws a curveball and announces a Verizon iPhone at the same time -- with the bottom price occupied by last year's now-retired iPhone 3GS. Wal-Mart has already started selling the iPhone 3GS for $97 to undercut Apple's expected price, and Apple stopped taking orders of 2008's $99 iPhone 3G last week.

Those are U.S. prices -- your mileage may vary if you're outside the borders -- and they will undoubtedly require a two-year contract with love-to-hate AT&T.

Will Jobs announce a new U.S. carrier partner, maybe Verizon? Not likely. The consensus by analysts is that if Apple does end AT&T's exclusive U.S. deal, it won't do that until later this year or sometime in early 2011 .

Will the new iPhone have a faster processor, more storage space? The first is a near-certainty if you believe the Vietnamese forum that posted a quick-and-dirty teardown of what it said was a preview fourth-gen iPhone.

The mid-May report out of Vietnam claimed that the next iPhone sports the same Apple-designed A4 SOC (system on a chip) that runs the iPad media tablet, something a U.S. hardware expert said made perfect sense.

As for more storage space, the bets are that Apple will keep to the 16GB and 32GB configurations it's used before. The prototype touted by the Vietnamese site was marked as a 16GB model on the back, for example.

What about iPhone OS 4? What will Apple divulge today? A surprise or two.

While Apple previewed the new mobile operating system in March, it's fond of holding back a few features to trumpet. We expect no less today.

Thanks to AT&T, we know that iPhone OS 4, as suspected, supports tethering .

High on the not-yet-publicized-by-Apple list is video chat, with that assumption being driven by the front-facing cameras on the leaked prototypes. Several analysts have gone on the record saying that video is Apple's most likely next service move, and AT&T's capping of new data plans is another clue that video chat is probably imminent .

When can I download iPhone OS 4? Jobs will tell us later today. But if we had to bet, we'd bet on next week.

Last year, Apple rolled out iPhone OS 3 on June 17, two days before the June 19 sale date for the new iPhone 3GS. Apple separated the upgrade from the new iPhone in 2009 after a debacle the year before when it rolled out both on the same day, a move that brought Apple's servers to their knees as users clamored for the update and new phones were activated in AT&T and Apple retail stores.

If Apple sets June 18 as the sale data for the next iPhone, figure iPhone OS 4 landing on Wednesday, June 16.

It's not all about the iPhone, is it? Pretty much.

But Apple's also used WWDC to plug new non-iPhone products. Last year, for example, Apple's marketing guy, Philip Schiller, announced a sweeping overhaul of the company's laptop line, set the price of the upcoming Snow Leopard operating system at $29, and launched Safari 4, the next version of its Mac and Windows browser.

With laptops having been refreshed in April and May, and no new OS in the air, the best chance of a it's-not-an-iPhone announcement involves Safari. The French site MacGeneration started the Safari 5 rumors rolling.

Other rumors have circulated that Apple will update its Mac Mini line and/or Apple TV . Another possibility: The iMac line, last relaunched last October, is overdue for an overhaul -- or at least some noteworthy tweaks.

Will Gizmodo be at WWDC to confirm its "lost" iPhone speculations? No, said the site's top editor, Brian Lam.

Last Friday, Lam announced that Apple had ignored the site's request for a pass to WWDC's keynote -- the only part of the conference open to the press. At the same time, Lam asked for volunteers to help Gizmodo cover Jobs' speech.

Sounds like retribution to us.

When will we know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? That's too existential for us, but as for what Apple says publicly, Jobs will kick off WWDC at 10 a.m. PT, 1 p.m. ET.

Computerworld will offer updates about today's iPhone and iPhone OS 4 details emerge shortly after Jobs concludes his presentation.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld . Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com .

Read more about app development in Computerworld's App Development Topic Center.

This story, "What to expect from Apple and Steve Jobs at WWDC" was originally published by Computerworld.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.