Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June will become a World Wide Web-only event due to health concerns raised by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, in a statement on its website, the comms-and-computers biz characterized the shift to an online format as an opportunity for community engagement rather than a concession to the risk of contagion.
"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," said Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of worldwide marketing. "The current health situation has required that we create a new WWDC 2020 format that delivers a full program with an online keynote and sessions, offering a great learning experience for our entire developer community, all around the world."
At this point, it's difficult to find large events in the US that haven't been cancelled, postponed, or moved online. Other major developer conferences planned for the first half of the year, such as Facebook F8, Google I/O, and Microsoft Build 2020, have all been virtualized.
In a statement this week, Microsoft said of Build – aimed at programmers and techies, and one of its largest annual events:
The safety of our community is a top priority. In light of the health safety recommendations for Washington State, we will deliver our annual Microsoft Build event for developers as a digital event, in lieu of an in-person event. We look forward to bringing together our ecosystem of developers in this new virtual format to learn, connect and code together.
Dozens of other IT-oriented events have made similar shifts and the situation has been similar outside the tech industry, with mass gatherings of all sorts being reconsidered. On Friday, Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced the state is pushing back its primary elections from April 4 to June 20 and England has postponed local and mayoral elections for a year.
What Apple's "innovative" take on didactic communication means for the 23 million registered Apple developers around the world is not entirely clear. But the shift to an online format will deprive Apple developers with the opportunity to chat with Apple engineers, who can sometimes answer technical questions that aren't covered in the company's poorly regarded developer documentation.
Schiller said Apple plans to share details in the weeks ahead, leaving a number of questions unanswered.
For example, will there be a fee? Apple charged developers $1,600 to attend its in-person event last year and about 6,000 did so. A virtual event seems as if it should cost less. The biz has historically charged a premium for its products and charges for services because it can, and also because it doesn't subsidize them with ad revenue.
Yet this year, the iPhone maker, currently holding $200bn in cash, is promising to pay $1m to local organizations in San Jose to make up for the revenue loss following from WWDC 2020’s new online format.
Another unanswered question is whether Apple will make all its content available as streaming video or only some of it? And will anyone be able to view the developer-oriented sessions, or will certain presentations be offered only to registered developers?
The keynote has traditionally been a publicly accessible webcast (though in the past the video stream has been optimized for the company's Safari browser).
We note last year's WWDC sessions are online: will the same happen for this year?
The Register cast these questions into Apple's media relations void and, to our surprise, received a reply. But it contained no new information. Apple's spokesperson politely pointed to Schiller's statement that more details will be forthcoming. ®