5 Disruptive Announcements Apple Could Make at WWDC 14

Home automation, NFC chips, eBooks and more -- what direction will Apple take?

May 31, 2014 at 3:00PM


Image credit: Flickr user Michiel Jelijs

With its Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, coming up on June 2, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has the chance to make significant ripples. In addition to the expected updates on OS X and new MacBooks, here are several other announcements Apple could make, with implications for Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), NXP Semiconductors NV (NASDAQ:NXPI), and many others.

Home automation
This rumor has already been spread by the Financial Times. If true, Apple is planning on turning the iPhone into the center of a new line of smart home devices that can control lights, appliances, and more. This new direction would allow Apple to compete with others entering the increasingly saturated home-automation market -- and especially Google, which recently acquired Nest, and Microsoft, with its new Insteon deal.

NFC chips at last
Home automation could bring a whole new type of technology to Apple's next smartphone generation -- near field communication, or NFC, which the iPhone 6 may use to communicate with household devices. There was some hope that an NFC chip would be included in the iPhone 5, but Apple chose to wait. Now rumors circulate that the iPhone 6 may have the wireless technology, which can be used to track objects, facilitate payments, and send wireless commands.

Apple's long-awaited move toward NFC is good for that entire industry segment, but look for the primary winner to be NXP Semiconductors , an NFC specialist. NXP's stock has had a strong several months, moving from around $40 to more than $60 since 2014 began. An Apple NFC announcement that includes tapping NXP's experience could push the stock even higher.

Music streaming and headphones
Now that Apple has announced the Beats Music acquisition, it seems likely that the company will unveil specific plans concerning Beats headphones and the Beats music-streaming app. How they will be absorbed into the Apple family remains to be seen. If Apple is taking its iTunes Radio streaming service in a new direction or is exploring new types of hardware, it may be ready to unveil this information at WWDC. Is Apple getting ready to offer Pandora and Spotify more serious competition? Or does it have different plans in mind for Beats?

Friendly for e-books
It is possible that Apple will use WWDC to take aim at one of its longtime e-book competitors, Amazon. Amazon recently made a splash with its heavy-handed tactics  in dealing with international publisher Hachette, where it raised prices on Hachette books, lengthened delivery dates, removed books from prime website real estate, and took away pre-order options -- moves to pressure Hachette into dropping the prices of its e-books. This led to concerned speculation on the future of publication and authorship. Amazon's stock dipped down below $310 on May 27 before recovering to bounce between $312 and $314 as investors consider the implications.

Apple may take the chance to capitalize off the coverage of Amazon's tactics and highlight its own e-book policies for its developers and any publishers paying attention. If ill will against Amazon remains, this could help Apple win more e-book market share for itself and differentiate its own approach to negotiations.

Apple TV update
Speaking of rivalry with Amazon, the emergence of Fire TV has given Apple even more competition for its Apple TV, which also faces Chromecast, Roku, and other set-top boxes. Apple could use some differentiation from the crowd at this point. If any major changes are due for the Apple TV, such as incorporation with its new Beats assets, the WWDC may offer an opportunity to renew interest in this Apple line -- or to slowly back away from it.

Wearable products like a smart watch, in-depth app changes, and health trackers are also potential announcement fodder for WWDC. As the annual opportunity approaches, watch for what Apple has up its sleeves.

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Tyler Lacoma has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, and NXP Semiconductors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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