Yesterday we got word that Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference is set for June 6-10. The event will be (nearly) entirely virtual. The only exception, as Apple explains, will be for a select group of developers to join a live keynote on the Apple campus. If they announce new hardware, I’d expect there will also be some press invited.
The question is whether this is just another step toward the everybody-in-one-town WWDC we had in 2019 or a refinement of the new (mostly) virtual format. I don’t have any inside information but if I had to guess, I’d say WWDC will be more virtual than anything else for the foreseeable future.
There are several good reasons for Apple to lean in that direction:
I’ve known Apple employees that speak and attend WWDC. It requires them to spend a lot of time on tasks that usually aren’t in their wheelhouse. Don’t forget that they are in the middle of building new operating system updates for all Apple products at the same time. WWDC is a huge distraction for those folks.
With the virtual format, Apple gets better control of the message. The keynote, the sessions, and just about everything else is pre-recorded. Consequently, there are no slip-ups or mistakes.
Better Virtual Materials
Apple has been releasing videos of the WWDC sessions for years, but the materials and production values of the virtual events of the last few years have been much better than in years past.
Way More People Can Attend
Historically, to attend WWDC, you had to hit the ticket lottery AND have the available time to travel to San Jose AND have the disposable income to pay for the flight, overpriced room, and everything else. There are a lot of folks who can’t tick all those boxes. In building the event as a primarily virtual one, Apple can give a good experience to many more people.
Missing the Gathering
All that said, historically, WWDC wasn’t the only thing that happened at and around WWDC. There were multiple related conferences, live podcasts, and numerous other social events that you don’t get with a virtual event. I’ve met many of my best friends at the “gathering of the tribe” around WWDC.
While I don’t expect Apple to ever announce their long-term intentions for WWDC, I wish they would. If the community knew WWDC will remain virtual for the foreseeable future, we could start thinking about creating our own events instead.