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Coronavirus forces Apple’s hand on WWDC

March 14, 2020, 1:30 PM UTC

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The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on Apple rose to a new level this week when the company shifted plans for its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), usually attended by tens of thousands of people.

Apple, which has already been hit by production problems and slow sales because of the virus, said that WWDC would be online-only this year.

Meanwhile, Apple closed its stores in Italy and reopened all of its stores in China in response to COVID-19 developments in each country.

But not even COVID-19 appears to be slowing Apple’s product development efforts. According to several reports this week, Apple’s work on new products, including updated MacBooks and a new service for people to use during workouts, is underway.

An online-only WWDC

In a widely anticipated move, Apple has canceled the in-person component to its annual WWDC and will instead host what it calls a “completely new online experience”. It would be the first online-only WWDC in Apple’s history. Many details have yet to be released. But Apple still plans a keynote address to unveil new software.

iOS 14 leaks

Apple hasn’t introduced its next mobile operating system, assumed to be called iOS 14, but that software leaked online this week. In doing so, it revealed some details about upcoming Apple products. Chief among them was a reference to a new iPad Pro that could ship with a better camera, according to 9to5Mac, which obtained a copy of the leaked iOS 14 code. The Apple-tracking site also found mentions of a new budget-friendly iPhone Apple could debut in the coming months, as well as a redesigned Apple TV remote. Apple hasn’t confirmed the code’s authenticity, and likely won’t until it’s ready to unveil iOS 14 later this year.

What’s next for watchOS?

Apple is working on a new version of watchOS, called watchOS 7, according to 9to5Mac. Apple plans to introduce a tachymeter for Apple Watch that can measure a person’s speed and distance traveled during use, according to the report. The software also includes custom, user-designed watch faces and a new feature that will limit the time children spend using Apple Watch, so they can focus on school or sleep. Apple hasn’t confirmed the leaked code’s authenticity.

Apple’s retail disruption

There was plenty of news about Apple’s retail stores this week. In the U.S., the company suspended all Today at Apple learning sessions, but has so far kept all of its stores open. In China, Apple has finally reopened all stores after a long closure over COVID-19 fears. But in Italy, where COVID-19 has forced a nationwide lockdown, Apple has closed all retail locations until further notice. Meanwhile, the company has told stores to no longer allow customers to try on AirPods and Apple Watch until further notice.

Apple moves to the gym

Apple is working on a new fitness-focused app for Apple Watch and iPhone, codenamed Seymour, according to CNBC. The software, which is under the direction of Apple’s resident fitness instructor Jay Blahnik, gives users access to guided workouts in strength training, cycling, and other fitness activities. Apple plans to premiere the app later this year, according to the report.

Get ready for new Macs

Apple is working on several new Macs, according to TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors this week, Kuo said Apple will announce new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro notebooks in the second quarter. Kuo, who has one of the better track records on predicting Apple’s next moves, also told investors that Apple is working on a redesigned MacBook that will go on sale in 2021. It’s unclear, however, what the redesigned MacBook will include.

Apple supports LGBTQ community

Apple, along with several other companies, including Amazon, Google, and IKEA, this week signed a letter opposing state legislation across the country that would limit medical care access to transgender people and ultimately “promote mistreatment of a targeted LBGTQ population.” In addition to the medical implications, the companies are concerned that the b ills being discussed in several states would make members of the LGBTQ community feel unsafe. The companies say the “less inclusive practices lead to less employee productivity and customer service.” You can read the full letter here.

One more thing…

Elon Musk wasn’t happy with Apple this week. In an interview at the Satellite 2020 conference, Musk said Apple’s recent iOS 13 update broke his e-mail and that Apple’s recent software updates are “not great.” As someone who has grown increasingly frustrated with iOS 13’s bugs, I agree.

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