Apple Announces WWDC 2020 with ‘All-New Online Format’

Apple WWDC 2020 Credit: Apple
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Apple has just announced its plans for this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference, which not surprisingly will be moved into an online format, but still promises to be as big of an event as ever.

With the novel coronavirus pandemic spreading around the world, it was a safe bet even late last month that Apple would be cancelling the in-person WWDC events, and as things have only gotten worse over the past few days and Apple cancelling its spring product launch event, a major change to WWDC was basically inevitable, and we found ourselves really just waiting to see when Apple would make the call.

While WWDC isn’t held until June, it’s difficult to say what the status of the pandemic is going to be by then, and besides, it takes time to plan a major event like this. Last week, Google made a similar move in cancelling its I/O 2020 Conference, which was scheduled for mid-May, stating that it would put its sessions online.

Apple, however, seems to be pulling out all of the stops to make WWDC 2020 as big of an event as it possibly can without requiring people to actually show up for it. Featuring what it hails as an “all-new online format” the event will include the standard kick-off keynote followed by sessions that promise to connect millions of developers around the world.

The keynote will of course herald the unveiling of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, tvOS 14, and the next version of macOS, and developers will get their usual early access to the preview versions and the ability to “engage with Apple engineers.”

We are delivering WWDC 2020 this June in an innovative way to millions of developers around the world, bringing the entire developer community together with a new experience.

Phil Schiller, Apple Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing

Apple Senior VP Phil Schiller promises that the new WWDC 2020 format will “deliver a full program” for the developer community, although he didn’t yet specify exactly how that was going to work, adding only that Apple will “be sharing all of the details in the weeks ahead.”

What Will WWDC 2020 Look Like?

The announcement suggests that even the WWDC Keynote, which is usually very widely attended by members of the press, will also be held strictly online, although we’re not sure yet how Apple will handle that in light of the fact that cheering audiences have made up a staple of its keynote events for years. Apple employees could be used to fill the seats, of course, but Apple could also choose to present it in a different format entirely, using a smaller studio environment rather than its typically large stage-and-auditorium setting.

What remains more of a mystery at this point is whether Apple will be doing anything to maintain the social aspects of WWDC. As many Apple developers already know, making connections with other developers and Apple engineers has long been the real benefit of actually showing up at WWDC in person, especially in recent years as Apple has made almost all of its sessions available online.

I look forward to our developers getting their hands on the new code and interacting in entirely new ways with the Apple engineers building the technologies and frameworks that will shape the future across all Apple platforms.

Craig Federighi, Apple Senior VP of Software Engineering

Apple’s announcement, however, implies that there will be some two-way interaction with Apple engineers, so it’s possible that the company could adopt a video conferencing model that would allow developer participants to ask questions, although with 23 million developers around the world it’s unclear exactly how it might limit virtual attendance. Such a strategy would naturally still fall short of what a true in-person experience would be like, but it’s all that developers will be able to look forward to this year, so it’s going to have to be enough.

Apple notes that it will be sharing additional program information in the coming weeks via email as well as within the Apple Developer app and on the Apple Developer website.

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