It's that time of year again when Apple's legion of fans start to build up their excitement over what's coming from the Fruit-themed purveyor of white metallic gadgets, as the company's team of executives and ideas gurus decamp to San Francisco for their annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC).
The event, which is taking place from June 2nd to June 6th, is always the high point of the year for developers working with Apple's products and it's often a chance to get a first look at the latest innovations the firm is working on. And as is traditional, the general tone of WWDC was set out from the start with chief executive Tim Cook's keynote address to the assembled masses.
This year, there was no earth-shattering new hardware like the iPhone or the iPad to headline the event. Even the much-rumoured iWatch has yet to make an appearance – though not for a lack of hints. But that doesn't mean the company has nothing to say, with software set to be the big focus for WWDC 2014. So we've pulled together some of the key themes that lay out what to expect from Apple in the next few months.
A new OS – bigger, faster, better
Central to the keynote was the now-traditional update to Apple's mobile iOS platform. The latest version of the software is iOS 8, and Apple is always touting it as the biggest update to the system since the launch of the App Store. To start with, there's the usual tweaks to the user interface – though nothing on the level of the overhaul iOS 7 got, which split opinions among the fanbase.
Meanwhile, Apple's also promising better connectivity between devices, with features such as Handoff, which allows users to start an activity on one device and then finish it on another – something that could be great for those who've equipped themselves with the full range of Apple gadgets, such as an iPhone, iPad and Mac.
But what iOS 8 is really about is a whole new generation of apps. Overall, the solution's software development kit will contain around 4,000 programming tools to help with the creation of even more varied and powerful software for the platform. Mr Cook said: "It will give developers the capabilities and tools to make things they haven't dreamed of, and to push to a whole new level."
A new way to keep in touch
Among the bundled iOS apps that are getting a makeover is Apple's Messaging service, which has come under increasing pressure in recent times from rivals like WhatsApp. New features of the offering include the ability to easily create and modify group messages, send voice clips with a single swipe, and even create and exchange short video clips.
Apple added that users can easily browse through all of the photos and videos within a conversation and share multiple photos and videos at once. You can choose to share your current location from within Messages for an hour, a day or longer.
Keep a check on your health
The updated OS also comes with a Health app, which lets you gather information from various fitness apps and devices, to deliver an easy-to-understand overview all in one place. So if you find yourself frequently pounding the pavement using your iPhone's music player to keep you motivated and a step tracker to monitor your progress, iOS 8 should be able to offer you an even better insight into your performance.
Apple said: "With your permission, each app can use specific information from other apps to provide a more comprehensive way to manage your health and fitness. For example, the Nike+ apps using NikeFuel will be able to pull in other key HealthKit metrics such as sleep and nutrition to build a custom user profile and improve athletic performance."
Watch out Dropbox
The keynote also signalled an intention for Apple to move into the growing cloud storage market. With users creating more photos, videos and docs than ever, tools like Dropbox are becoming increasingly popular as people look for new ways of safeguarding their most precious files and accessing them anywhere.
That's why Apple unveiled the internet-based iCloud Drive storage app, which will not only allow users to upload files from their iOS or Mac devices, but also share and view them on their PC. Users will be able to make edits to documents on any device and see the most up-to-date version become instantly available across all gadgets with a connection to the iCloud. The firm said this "brings a whole new level of collaboration between apps, providing seamless access and the ability to work on the same file across multiple apps".