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Developers Wind Up for Apple Watch Update at Apple's WWDC

Apple's annual developer conference is expected to offer updates to its mobile and desktop operating systems, and debut a new streaming music service.

Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

The Apple Watch will get plenty of love next week at the company’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference.

The Cupertino technology giant offered a preview of its news at the Code Conference last week where operations chief Jeff Williams said Apple plans to release a software development kit that will allow programmers to make direct use of the capabilities of the Apple Watch.

Developers have lacked direct access to the Apple Watch’s sensors, microphone and Digital Crown, which can be used to zoom in and out of photos or scroll through lists. That changes next week.

Apple’s decision to open a first-generation product like the Apple Watch to the development community represents a shift in strategy for the company. When the iPhone debuted in 2007, it was introduced without third-party apps. Apple has since come to appreciate the value of a thriving developer ecosystem, which has helped fan sales of the iPhone and iPad. Indeed, the App Store turned in record results in the company’s most recent quarter.

Here’s what else to expect:

  • Apple Music subscription service: The company will likely unveil a subscription music streaming service that represents the first fruits of Apple’s acquisition last year of Beats. Apple has been the dominant player in song downloads. It will seek to coax its millions of iTunes customers to embrace streaming, with a $10 monthly service that offers all-you-can-eat access to music.
  • Updates to iOS for mobile and OS X desktop: Most observers expect this year to bring fixes that enhance stability and improve performance. 9to5Mac has reported that one of the biggest new features is one that mirrors Google Now, which seems to anticipate users’ needs and serve up relevant information.
  • Apple TV: The company canceled plans to unveil an updated set-top box, and it has not yet closed deals with TV networks for an Internet-TV subscription service like Dish’s Sling or Sony’s. Don’t expect to hear anything more about the device next week.
  • HomeKit: Speaking of Apple TV, the company’s “hobby”-turned-top-selling set-top box becomes part of Apple’s vision for the connected home. A newly released document explains how consumers could use their Apple TV to control their lights, locks or other HomeKit-connected gadgets when they’re away from home — using Siri.
  • What developers might get for Apple Watch: Developers will gain direct access to the device, allowing an application like Shazam to use the watch’s microphone to identify a song playing on the radio (instead of listening in through the iPhone), a weather app like Dark Sky to employ the Digital Crown to zoom in on the day’s forecast, or a productivity app like Evernote to coordinate between the phone and the watch, displaying relevant information on the wrist while the user makes a business call.

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