Here’s What Gene Munster Expects to See at Apple’s WWDC
Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) highly anticipated Worldwide Developers Conference begins at San Francisco’s Moscone West today with a keynote address that will be live-streamed by Apple at 1 p.m. EDT, or 10 a.m. PDT. While nobody knows for sure what new software, services, or hardware the Cupertino-based company will unveil at today’s event, Apple commentators and industry experts have been offering their best guesses. Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, a prominent analyst and widely respected expert on Apple, recently shared his three major predictions for this year’s WWDC in an interview with CNBC via Yahoo Finance.
1. Home Automation Platform
Munster believes Apple will likely unveil a software platform that will allow products in the home to be controlled with an iOS device. “Most likely it’s going to be the announcement of a platform that will allow third parties to build home automation hardware,” Munster told CNBC. “So it could be to control lights, or switches, or shades.”
As noted by Munster, this platform will allow other manufacturers to make products that could be incorporated into Apple’s smart home system. Munster pointed out that this home automation software platform was likely one of the new product categories that CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly promised. This prediction was bolstered by a recent Financial Times report that cited insider sources who described a similar connected home system. Apple may have already tipped its hand with this project since the company has also filed multiple patents related to home automation, including one that outlined an automated home system that adjusted the operation of devices based on a user’s location.
2. iOS 8: Siri, Maps, and Health
As usual, Apple will be unveiling the latest iteration of its mobile operating system. However, it remains to be seen what new features iOS 8 will include. Munster believes it is likely that the new iOS will focus on improvements to Siri and Apple Maps. Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant was considered an important selling point for iOS when it was introduced in 2011. However, since then the market has become more competitive with various other personal digital assistants that have been developed and released by companies like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL). Improvements to Siri could help keep Apple’s version of the personal digital assistant ahead of the competition.
Improvements to Apple Maps would also not be entirely unexpected, since Apple has acquired several mapping companies over the past year, including data company BroadMap, location data company Locationary, and mass transit navigation app company HopStop.
Munster also believes that there is a “wildcard” chance that Apple will discuss a new mobile payments service. Rumors of a mobile payments service have gained momentum since a report from The Wall Street Journal earlier this year that claimed Apple executives were in talks with various industry leaders to discuss the implementation of a system. However, a recent report from 9to5Mac cited insider sources that indicated the mobile payments service was still in the research and development phase.
Munster told CNBC that it is more likely that Apple will unveil something related to “fitness and vitals.” Insider sources have told 9to5Mac that Apple is developing a fitness-tracking and health-monitoring app called “Healthbook” that will manage data in nearly a dozen different categories related to health, exercise, and diet. Apple rival Samsung (SSNLF.PK) recently announced its own health data platform called SAMI, or the Samsung Architecture Multimodal Interactions, as well as a prototype wrist-worn health tracking device called Simband, at an event last week, reports VentureBeat.
3. New MacBook Air With Retina Display
Finally, Muster told CNBC that he believes there is a “50/50 chance” that Apple will release a new MacBook Air with Retina display. “I would hold off on buying anything in the next few hours,” said Munster. However, don’t expect an iWatch or iPhone 6 — Munster believes that the MacBook Air with Retina display is the only new hardware that might be unveiled today. Apple refreshed its MacBook Air product line earlier this month with a minor hardware upgrade in the form of a new Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) Haswell processor. Apple also lowered the prices of the various MacBook Air models by $100.
Munster remains bullish on Apple and recently raised his price target on Apple shares to $732 from $640. “I still think that there is room for investors to become more positive about the Apple story,” Munster told CNBC. Live video of Apple’s WWDC event can be seen on its website or streamed over Apple TV beginning today at 1 p.m. EDT.
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