Apple's yearly Worldwide Developer's Conference provides three key functions. First, it offers up-to-the-minute tech briefings from Apple engineers. Second, it allows developers access to labs for specific technical issues. Third, it provides an unparalleled networking experience.
It's a little bittersweet, then, that Apple's success has outgrown its ability to service the needs of its developer community through an event that attracts approximately five thousand attendees. Although the Worldwide Developer Relations office has made great strides in expanding outreach, particularly through road shows, dev forums, and quick iTunes access to WWDC videos, the actual onsite event has not been scalable. As is, it's the happiest sardined nerd convention you can find, but it can't really grow.
Although some will say that if WWDC means enough to you that you will find a way to attend, especially to maintain your geek street cred, the fact that last year's event sold out while people in Japan and Australia were asleep means the current model cannot serve the world wide base it's meant to.
Does TUAW see WWDC going forward this year or next? Yes, we do, at least possibly. But we think that developer relations will need to restructure how this kind of dev support and outreach happens.
Last year, we proposed separate iOS and OS X events. We are retreating on that proposal. As Mountain Lion has demonstrated, the two models of development are converging more than diverging. Technologies like GameKit, iCloud, Core Location and notifications are drawing the platforms together, not moving them apart. We believe that the operating systems are unifying more and more, to create a more modern API.
So this year, we're proposing three big changes to WWDC for Apple's consideration. Are they optimal? Possibly not. Because we're essentially proposing to kill WWDC as we know it. Here are our thoughts.
Replace WWDC with live tech briefing broadcasts under NDA. Apple has the streaming technology. Move the briefings out from Moscone and into developer offices. This frees up a lot of engineering commitments, provides a wider audience of viewers, removes the barrier of buying tickets, paying for airfare and hotel, and gets the best practices message out effectively. After the live briefings, recorded versions can be distributed through iTunes as they are now.
Increase the Road Shows and add more lab support. The road shows are pretty limited right now, but they provide the right idea -- bring technology, evangelists, and engineers out from Cupertino to better fit a less single-event-per-year model.
Sponsor Third Party Conferences. I am admittedly biased on this one. There are many excellent third party conferences that would benefit from Apple Engineer presence, keynote speakers, and other integration. Conferences bring the social, the networking, and many other critical factors without the WWDC overhead. They already provide important technical training, briefing, and inspiration to fill the current WWDC gap. Apple support would simply improve what's already an important element of the developer scene.
Together, these three proposals combine to what we can envision as a future WWDC-less world. We like them more than the other alternatives we brainstormed up, which can be summarized as (1) invite-only WWDC, (2) a lottery system, (3) tickets at the door (imagine that line!) and (4) two tributes sent from each district to Cupertino to fight to the death -- "May the OS always be in your favor."
Agree? Disagree? Want to throw rotten tomatoes at us? Jump into the comments and share your opinion.