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Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference Goes Virtual

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By Chand Bellur

May 8, 2020 at 5:14 p.m. PT

  • Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, large events are either canceled or telecast to avoid large gatherings.
  • Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference typically introduces upcoming versions of Apple operating systems, while providing seminars and other content for developers.
  • This year, due to the pandemic, Apple will move the Worldwide Developers Conference online.

Worldwide Developers Conference Showcases Upcoming Operating System Releases

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference caters to developers and technically inclined individuals interested in upcoming operating systems. The keynote, intended for the media, provides streamlined information about new Apple operating systems. Other, more intensive sessions give developers hands-on access to new technologies.

The annual conference is nothing new. With the first WWDC originating almost 31 years ago, it’s been a fixture in the Apple ecosystem for decades. Apple’s iconic meeting will be held online for the first time this year. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most large gatherings are discouraged or illegal.

Worldwide Developers Conference Moves Online

Advances in bandwidth and audio-visual compression allow remote audiences to participate in global conferences. Although the technology is nothing new, it no longer requires expensive, proprietary equipment. Individuals can attend distant conferences and meetings using a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Technology itself doesn’t change things. The WWDC has become a massive event, and developers from all over the world travel to Cupertino to attend. The pandemic has forced Apple to rely on technology. Without COVID-19, the WWDC would be a mostly in-person event with some virtual sessions.

The obvious drawback to a virtual conference is the lack of hands-on participation and interaction with Apple engineers. This interaction is why developers pay large sums to attend the meeting. It allows them to ask questions and get answers from the most qualified experts in the world. The WWDC is free for all registered developers. This may make it impossible for elite developers to learn from Apple’s top experts.

How to Attend Virtual WWDC

This year’s WWDC is free for all registered developers. Anyone can register; however, it costs $99 to join the program. This is a small fee, considering it costs $1600 to attend the WWDC in person, excluding travel and lodging expenses. With a low barrier for attendance, it may be challenging to communicate with Apple engineers.

If you wish to attend this year’s conference, you must first enroll in Apple’s Developer Program. It’s as easy as filling out a few web forms. From there, you will be an official Apple developer, which entitles you to attend the 2020 WWDC.

Conference sessions can be accessed using the Apple Developer app and website. The keynote is usually broadcast live on Apple TV and then archived in the Events app in addition to YouTube.

This year’s WWDC will be radically different from other years. The pandemic is unavoidable and will likely be front and center in the keynote and sessions. Apple has added new contact tracing APIs to iOS 13, and this functionality will likely expand with iOS 14. The sheer number of participants may make the conference less interactive. It will also open the meeting up to individuals who could never before afford access.


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