What we expect from Steve Jobs’ WWDC keynote

by Phil Hornshaw

Today marks the start of Apple’s 2011 Worldwide Developers Conference, and  at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, Apple CEO Steve Jobs will deliver his annual WWDC keynote address. As every year, we’re expecting some big new things from Steve and his buddies at Apple (AAPL), but just what announcements he’ll be making is anybodys guess.

From Apple’s press releases and invites to WWDC we know there will be three things on the docket for sure: Mac OS X Lion, iCloud and iOS 5. All three software updates will be pretty substantial additions to the Apple lineup, but for mobile purposes, it’s iCloud and iOS 5 that are the things to be excited about.

But there’s one other consideration to keep in mind: a new iPhone. WWDC is traditionally the time when Jobs and Co. roll out the next iteration of their ubiquitous device. And while most tech writers around the Internet seem convinced that the next iPhone won’t be making the rounds until September, it’s possible that Apple could at least announce the device today.

So here’s a quick rundown of what we think we might see today, and the rumors we’ve heard so far.

The iPhone 4S/4G/5

We’re not entirely sure about this thing. Rumors have been flying all over the place about what the next iPhone will be like and even what it’ll be called. The one thing that we do expect from the next iPhone is for it to include the A5 dual-core processor that Apple introduced with the iPad 2. That processor is more powerful than what’s currently on offer in the iPhone 4. In fact, it has double the speed for gaming and up to nine times the graphics processing speed, according to Apple.

With the A5 chip but nothing much else being changed in the iPhone 4 in this next iteration – much like the differences between the iPhone 3G and the 3GS – it’s likely the next iPhone will carry an S as its moniker. Although, it there’s a whole lot of potential for the new iPhone to be branded with a “4G” rather than a “4S.” The iPhone 4 is already capable of HSPA+ data transfer technology, which AT&T (T) has branded as being part of its “4G” technology offering. It’s not the same speed as what Verizon (VZ) is offering in its 4G LTE stable, but it is faster than the current 3G data speeds the iPhone 4 is capable of delivering. It’s not much of a stretch for AT&T to push the 4G name to be able to claim it offers the iPhone as a next-generation cellular technology.

It’s also still possible we could be getting the “iPhone 5,” although it doesn’t seem likely. That version of a new iPhone would have be more of a complete revamp of the iPhone 4, like the iPhone 4 was over the iPhone 3GS. It’s expected to have a new design with a larger screen and more powerful cameras both in front and behind, as well as that A5 chip and surely some other cool, new features.

The new iTunes: iCloud

Well, maybe.

When it comes to Apple’s cloud storage offering, details and rumors are hard to separate. It sounds like iCloud will include a lot of the best features of Apple’s MobileMe service, like syncing notes, calendars and the like. But it seems all but certain that iCloud will include a streaming music service to compete with those of Google (GOOG) and Amazon (AMZN), among others.

We’ve heard that Apple has sealed deals with at least two of the four major record companies, reportedly even dolling out upwards of $100 million in payments to the companies to secure deals. It’s expected that Apple’s online music service will work a lot like those of Google and Amazon, allowing users to add their music tracks to an online database that can be streamed down using an Internet connection to multiple devices like iPhones, iPod Touches and iPads, as well as computers.

With iCloud, however, rumor has it that instead of adding tracks to an online storage space called a digital locker, like other services, Apple’s service will actually can users’ music libraries and then mirror those tracks with Apple’s high-quality versions on its cloud server. Tracks purchased through iTunes can be saved in a digital locker, but tracks purchased from other places will be scanned and mirrored.

It’s expected that Apple will charge a month subscription fee for its iCloud services, and reports put it at about $25 a year.

The new iOS – No. 5

Apple has made it clear that a new version of its mobile operating system, the one used on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad will be announced at WWDC. We’ve heard a few rumors about this new software, but the largest portion seems to be a growing level of integration with the social networking service Twitter.

Other portions of the user experience of iOS sound like they’ll be improved. One rumor is that iOS will include new widgets for apps, allowing users to get quick hits of information from certain apps (weather, for example), without actually launching them. It’s similar to what Google offers with Android 3.0 Honeycomb.

We also expect a lot of integration between iCloud and iOS 5, allowing users to stream photos and videos to their devices and access media libraries from various locations.

Just how many of these rumors will prove to be true will be answered today, but as always, expect big things from Jobs’ keynote and more than what we’ve got listed here – Apple always finds a way to sneak in something new and exciting no rumors could have predicted. Check back later today for a full rundown of everything Apple announces at WWDC, as well as accounts of our hands-on experiences with Apple’s new products.