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Apple’s WWDC is happening this year after all—but it has a new format

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WWDC 2020 — The company still plans to announce its slate of new features for iOS and macOS. Samuel Axon – Mar 13, 2020 5:07 pm UTC Enlarge / Apple’s header graphic for this year’s WWDC event.After weeks of speculation that Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) would be canceled this year because of social distancing…

WWDC 2020 —

The company still plans to announce its slate of new features for iOS and macOS.


Apple's header graphic for this year's WWDC event.

Enlarge / Apple’s header graphic for this year’s WWDC event.

After weeks of speculation that Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) would be canceled this year because of social distancing efforts in the United States meant to stop the spread of COVID-19, Apple announced today that WWDC 2020 will proceed. However, it will have a new, online-only format.

As usual, the event promises early access to “the future of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.” In the past, that meant talks by Apple engineers and partners on the inner workings of new features in Apple’s various software platforms and its developers’ toolkit, plus a live keynote for top-level announcements. Apple’s press release on WWDC 2020 says there will be “content for consumers, press, and developers” in this 31st annual conference.

“Additional program information will be shared between now and June by email, in the Apple Developer app, and on the Apple Developer website,” Apple says. Apple has in the past offered the in-person sessions at WWDC as video streams or downloads in any case, so for the majority of Apple developers—who don’t travel physically to WWDC—it seems like things may not look all that different in practice.

The announcement includes updated numbers, too: Apple’s platforms have 23 million registered developers in 155 countries and regions, and developers have to date earned $155 billion by making software for an install base of 1.5 billion Apple devices.

A quote from Apple marketing SVP Phil Schiller explains the reason behind going online-only this year:

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… 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. We will be sharing all of the details in the weeks ahead.

Alongside this news, Apple announced that it will contribute $1 million to local San Jose organizations “to offset associated revenue loss as a result of WWDC 2020’s new online format.” Major event cancelations like these can have major financial effects on local vendors, venues, and partners.

Apple was also widely expected to hold an event in late March to announce a number of new products, possibly including an iPhone SE successor based on the iPhone 8, an iPad Pro with an improved camera system, or a new replacement for the 13-inch MacBook Pro sans butterfly keyboard. However, supply line challenges and social distancing efforts may have led the company to postpone that event. We’ll have to wait and see.

But it looks like we can at least expect new details about Apple’s major 2020 operating system updates in June after all. As usual, Ars will report on the event as it happens.

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