Apple Announces Virtual WWDC to Begin June 22, Plus New Swift Student Challenge

Apple WWDC 2020 announcement
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As the novel coronavirus outbreak began to reach pandemic status earlier this year, it became clear that Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) would need to take a different approach this year. While some were wondering if it would suffer the same fate as other big tech conferences and be cancelled outright, the general consensus among Apple analysts and pundits was that the company would find some way to forge ahead and find a way to hold its most important annual event.

So it wasn’t a huge surprise when Apple announced back in March that WWDC 2020 would still be held, but with an ‘All-New Online Format’; in fact that point, the only real questions that remained was exactly what form it would take, and exactly when it would be held — although in recent years WWDC has pretty much always commenced on the first Monday in June, there wouldn’t be much preventing the company from holding it a little bit later under the current circumstances, since travel and facilities are no longer issues that need to be considered.

With about a month to go before WWDC would traditionally be held, Apple has just announced that it will be kicking off its new virtual WWDC 2020 on June 22, and in an great and unprecedented move (for unprecedented times), the entire online conference is going to be offered free for all developers.

Participants will be able to join in on the sessions through the Apple Developer app on an iPhone or iPad or via the Apple Developer website from just about any device with a web browser. The Apple Developer app is available for download now and will include a full roster of WWDC20 program info next month, including details on the keynote and Platforms State of the Union, session and lab schedules, and more. Some information will also be posted on the Apple developer website and shared with registered developers via email, but it sounds like the Apple Developer app will be the best and most efficient way to keep up to date.

WWDC20 will be our biggest yet, bringing together our global developer community of more than 23 million in an unprecedented way for a week in June to learn about the future of Apple platforms.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing

While Apple hasn’t yet offered a more detailed schedule, the announcement suggests that Apple will be holding a keynote, which will presumably be held on opening day, June 22, and will likely include a the usual slate of software announcements, including iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, tvOS 14, and whatever macOS 10.16 will be called.

There are other reports that we could see new hardware announced during the keynote as well, although this is fairly uncommon at WWDC, which is a developer-focused event. This would be especially true when it comes to rumours of new Apple over-ear headphones being announced at the event, since the relatively few hardware products that have debuted at WWDC over the years usually pertain to developers in some way, such as the announcement of the new Mac Pro last year, or even the new iPad Pro back in 2017. That said, there have been exceptions, such as when Apple unveiled the HomePod that same year, so it wouldn’t be completely out of the question to see new hardware show up, but it’s not nearly as likely as at other Apple events.

Swift Student Challenge

As part of this year’s conference, Apple has also announced the Swift Student Challenge to help encourage student developers by giving them opportunities to showcase their own Swift playgrounds. While Apple has traditionally offered the opportunity for students to attend WWDC at a significant discount, that perk obviously has little meaning this year, since the online conference will be free for everyone. As Apple’s Craig Federighi points out, Apple wants to ensure that it can still do something to “recognize and celebrate the creative contributions of our young developers from around the world.”

Beginning today, student developers will be able to use the Swift Playgrounds app for iPad and Mac to create an interactive scene that can be experienced in under three minutes and submit it to Apple by May 17th to enter the challenge, with the winners receiving an exclusive WWDC20 jacket and pin set to recognize their accomplishments. Student developers must comply with minimum age laws where they live (e.g. 13 in the U.S., 16 in the EU), be registered in at least the free Apple developer program, and be enrolled in an appropriate academic institution or program.

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