The Case For Multiple Apple Developer Conferences


Does Apple need to create multiple WWDC-like events worldwide?
Does Apple need to create multiple WWDC-like events worldwide?

How quickly WWDC sold out this week – less than two hours and before many developers on the west coast were even out of bed – raises some interesting questions for Apple. Could the company have handled the announcement better? Should Apple allow more than 5,000 developers to attend? Is the current model for WWDC, which was adopted years ago, still viable given the stratospheric success that Apple has experienced over the past few years?

Apple has been hosting the annual developers conference for decades and the focus and tone of it has shifted over time, particularly in recent years after Apple opened iOS to developers in 2008. Two years ago, the company axed virtually all Mac content at the event and focused exclusively on iOS – a decision resulted in the first MacTech Conference, which included tracks for Mac and iOS developers as well as a track for IT professionals.

In addition to the now-annual MacTech Conference, there are several conferences and events throughout the year that offer networking and training opportunities for Mac and iOS developers, Mac systems administrators, and IT professionals charged with managing iOS devices in the workplace. The worldwide calendar includes the following events:

Suffice it to say, developers and Apple-centric IT professionals have plenty of alternatives to WWDC. But there are facets of WWDC that most of these other events can’t offer – access to hundreds of Apple engineers being the most important.

While Apple can refine its ticket policies and even boost the size of the event to some extent, WWDC will still be a packed event and it will sell out just as quickly as it did this week (if not more quickly) in the futures. Increasing the size will also change the nature of the conference.

There’s also the question of focus. 2010 showed that Apple could offer a full slate of sessions and labs just around iOS. Pre-2008 shows made it clear that Apple can do the same around the Mac. For developers working with both platforms, the current WWDC model can pose a question about which technologies to focus on.

The overwhelming interest and the focus of more than one platform combined with trying to not have the event become so big that it’s unmanageable for Apple and attendees leads to a natural conclusion – Apple should consider offer multiple high profile events each year.

That isn’t a new concept. Apple has offered one day developer events in the past. In fact, Apple offered a handful of iOS 5 developer events in cities around the world that it dubbed the iOS 5 Tech Talk World Tour. The company offered a similar set of tech talks in 2007 to promote iPhone web-app development. Going back even further the company held similar events around the development of Leopard.

While these types of events are great – and also fill up very quickly – they’re still relatively limited and fairly infrequent. Apple could easily expand them to two or three day events, perhaps with 500 to 1,000 attendees – mini-WWDCs if you will. Or the company could split WWDC into two conferences with one focused on iOS and the other on OS X. Perhaps, the most effective option, however, would be to offer two or three complete versions of WWDC each year. Certainly, the developer base is big enough to support the approach.