SAN FRANCISCO — Apple has a lot riding on next week’s introduction of its new mobile operating system, even though new devices are not expected to surface until later in the year.
Monday morning will see the kickoff of Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers’ Conference, otherwise known as WWDC.
At the keynote session, CEO Tim Cook and other top executives are expected to preview the latest versions of iOS and OS X — the two operating systems that power the company’s family of computing devices that include the iPhone, iPad and Mac computer lineup.
It will be the public’s first look at new platform offerings since Apple shook up its software leadership team late last year, putting design head Jony Ive in charge of the “human interface” of all the company’s products.
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The stakes are high for Apple this time around, as considerable doubt has crept into the investment community about the company’s ability to live up to its past record of product innovation — as well as maintain profit margins that dwarf those of other tech companies.
The stock is off more than 17 percent since the first of the year, one of the worst performers among tech stocks on the S&P 500.
“It’s been a long winter,” said Gene Munster, of Piper Jaffray, who has continued to rate the stock as a buy, despite its sharp slide from the $700 level since the fall.
Buzz on new products has long been a major driver of Apple’s shares, but the company has been virtually silent since the fall, when it unveiled major redesigns of nearly its entire product line.
Besides the iPhone 5, the company introduced the iPad mini and new iMac and iPod series.
The new iOS mobile platform is expected to show distinct changes to previous versions, asIve took over responsibility for the company’s software after iOS head Scott Forstall left the company late last year.
On stage at the D11 conference last week, Cook said Ive “has been really key” in the coming update to iOS. He promised that, “We’ll be rolling out the future of iOS and OS X” at the WWDC event, though he stayed mum on details.
“We recognized that Jony had contributed significantly to the look and feel of Apple products over the years, and we realized that he could do the same with software,” Cook said.
Some think Apple may announce a new music streaming service called iRadio at the event, as the company’s iTunes store remains one of the few digital music outlets to lack a subscription-based streaming feature.
Bloomberg News reported that people with knowledge of the situation say Apple signed an agreement with Sony Music Entertainment, the final record-company holdout needed for its planned online-radio service.
With the record companies on board, Apple plans to announce an advertising-supported service that will compete with Pandora Media for listeners.
IRadio will allow users to build custom stations based on an artist or genre that draws on music from the company’s iTunes library.
Apple’s agreement with Sony Music was reported Friday by AllThingsD.
Ben Reitzes, of Barclays Capital, predicted that Apple may also bring out a new service that adds payment abilities to its Passbook service currently embedded in iOS.
Another possibility is Apple allowing developers to use its services like Siri and iCloud in their own offerings.