updated 11:45 pm EDT, Sat June 11, 2011
Chronic shows Nuance in iOS 5 and MBA update
(Update 2: Back to School too?) A pair of leaks Saturday night by well-known source Chronic pointed to both features buried inside iOS 5 as well as hints that the upcoming MacBook Air refresh could happen next week. Internal, Apple-only builds of iOS 5 have settings for "Nuance Dictation" and "Nuance Long Endpoint," suggesting that the rumored Nuance voice recognition support thought to be coming at WWDC was just buried, not scrapped. The approach is still mostly mysterious but is expected to use Apple's acquisition of Siri to produce complex voice commands beyond what Voice Control did in 2009.
It may be complex enough that it needs Apple's iCloud datacenter in North Carolina to handle much of the processing, which could be problematic for travellers. A "mic on space key" feature is also present and implies that the on-screen keyboard could be used to quickly invoke voice dictation without having a dedicated button.
Those same internal builds also allow FaceTime video chats over 3G, he said, though it's not evident whether or not that was a sign Apple was about to expand it beyond current Wi-Fi limits. Carriers have been the primary obstacle to 3G FaceTime and won't necessarily have granted permission. Developer builds outside Apple have the extra functionality disabled.
Side-by-side with the iOS 5 code exploration is word that the MacBook Air revamp had been narrowed down to Wednesday. This was "100% confirmed," Chronic wrote, although that was also the only information he had. He also wasn't explicit as to whether this was the actual unveiling or just the in-store date. Apple prefers to make announcements on Tuesdays.
The new Air update is expected to run on low voltage Core i5 and i7 processors as well as add Thunderbolt. RAM and storage updates are possible as well. If they ship in June, they will have to ship with Snow Leopard but could conceivably have a code to receive a free upgrade to Lion the following month.
Update: An extra scoop mentioned that Apple retail stores were having one of their overnight visual updates on Tuesday, usually the sign of a new product coming in. The 9to5 tip suggested it might just be Apple scaling back its physical software to push the Mac App Store ahead of Lion. Some final shipments of the current Air were still reaching stores, but this didn't necessarily preclude new models coming soon.
Update 2: One more mention from Chronic has maintained that the visual refresh at Apple stores could see the Back to School promo and the new MacBook Airs arrive at the same time. Talk has surfaced that it extend this year to include $200 off iPads along with equivalent deals on iPods.