Apple's online-only WWDC starts on June 22nd, and it's free

The show must go on.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Shelter-in-place orders and limits on public gatherings forced Apple to cancel the in-person portion of its Worldwide Developers Conference, but the show will go on -- and now we know when. The company confirmed this morning that this year's online-only WWDC will begin on June 22nd, and will be available for free to “all developers” interested in tuning in. (The usual asking price? $1,600, plus accommodations.)

“WWDC20 will be our biggest yet, bringing together our global developer community of more than 23 million in an unprecedented way for a week in June to learn about the future of Apple platforms,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing in a press release.

Apple has previously said it was committing to a "full program," complete with a keynote and breakout developer sessions, and noted today that it would also run a challenge for students to develop their own Swift Playgrounds scenes in exchange for WWDC swag. More importantly, WWDC 2020 will also provide our first real glimpse at Apple's latest major software updates for iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches. The iPhone in particular may see dramatic interface changes this year: Current rumors suggest a new homescreen design with support for movable home widgets, a list view for all installed apps and iPad-inspired multitasking.

WWDC has also historically served as a focal point for new hardware rumors --  after all, devices from the iPhone 3GS in 2009 to the redesigned Mac Pro last year made their first appearances at Apple's developer conference. Since the 2020 iPad Pro, the second-generation iPhone SE and the updated MacBook Pro have already been announced, though, it's possible this year's show will be completely hardware-free. (For now, the leading "pleasant surprise/curve ball" announcement would be confirmation of ARM-powered Macs in 2021.)

This shift to a purely digital event format means WWDC is one of a few major developer conferences not to be canceled outright over COVID-19 concerns. Facebook's F8 was originally slated to run on May 5th and 6th and San Jose, California, before the company's leadership officially scuttled it in late February. (CEO Mark Zuckerberg later said that Facebook would abstain from large events entirely through June 2021 at the earliest.) Google I/O, which would have taken place between May 12th and May 14th in the company's native Mountain View, was canceled in March. To date, Microsoft is the only other major industry player to successfully jettison its in-person plans and go online-only -- Build will also be freely available to fans and advocates when it begins on May 19th.

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