While this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference is expected to be an entirely virtual event due to the ongoing global health crisis, that may not be entirely true for Apple’s own staff, at least some of which will undoubtedly need to be on site at Apple’s sprawling Apple Park campus to conduct the necessary presentations.
We heard last month that Apple was making plans to call some of its staff back to work, with a focus on those employees who simply weren’t capable of doing their jobs from home, either due to the requirements of their work or simply because their home environments haven’t been conducive to getting things done.
As Apple has gotten closer to allowing more staff to return, we’ve also gotten a closer look at what the conditions at Apple Park will look like, with many of the amenities shut down and a continued focus on social distancing and limiting interpersonal contact as much as possible — even to the point of restricting the number of people who will be allowed to travel in a single elevator at the same time.
Now it looks like Apple is ready to kick off phase 1 beginning next Monday, according to Bloomberg, with a “very limited” return of only key workers.
The information comes from an internal memo to staff, which laid out the preliminary details, while adding that more information will be shared later this month. Apple also noted that the bulk of its employees won’t be returning to the office for at least several months.
Of those who will be returning on June 15, however, many will only be allowed in the office on certain days, depending on their jobs, and will still have to work within a variety of precautions including daily health checks, wearing masks, and following social distancing rules. Employees are also being “strongly encouraged” to take on-site or at-home COVID-19 tests that Apple will be providing to staff members.
Despite some earlier reports that WWDC could be ‘Shot on iPhone’, at least some of the Apple executives and engineers involved in the annual developers conference will need to be on-site for at least some parts of the conference. It’s hard to imagine Apple CEO Tim Cook presenting the WWDC Keynote from his living room, so it seems likely that it will be done from some kind of studio setup at Apple Park, or perhaps even from the stage of the Steve Jobs theatre.
Even though Phase 1 doesn’t officially begin until Monday, several senior Apple executives have already been spending time at the office, at least intermittently. Apple SVP of Retail and People Deirdre O’Brien recorded an internal video message to staff from her offices last week, and Bloomberg notes that a number of hardware and software engineers have also been working on site already to gear up for Apple’s new product launches later this year.
Apple Park also wasn’t entirely abandoned during the crisis, with a small portion of staff in essential roles, such as operations, continuing to work on site all throughout the lockdown period.
While Apple is moving a bit more quickly than some of the other big tech companies, it also has a very different set of requirements due to its much stronger focus on hardware products. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter can afford to bide their time, as it’s much easier for software engineers to work from home.
With key Apple staff returning on Monday, however, Apple can ensure that the necessary teams have time to be in place for when WWDC 2020 kicks off the following Monday, June 22. While the developer sessions will be hosted completely online, Apple is still expected to hold a keynote presentation of some kind, where it will unveil a number of new products, including of course the developer previews of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, macOS 10.16, tvOS 14, and watchOS 7, and we’ve also heard rumours of a major iMac refresh in the works that will very likely be unveiled at the event as well.