WWDC at risk as California authorities call for cancellation of events

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WWDC might go virtual this year.
WWDC 2020 is in jeopardy as Apple’s local health department asks large gatherings be cancelled.
Photo: Apple

The pressure on Apple to cancel its yearly developers conference and possibly a planned March product keynote has gotten a little tougher.

The Public Health Department of Santa Clara County, where Apple’s headquarters is located,  recommended Thursday the postponing or canceling of mass gatherings to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus. That calls into question whether Apple will hold its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, as it traditionally does.

A statement by the government agency said, “At this time, we recommend postponing or canceling mass gatherings and large community events where large numbers of people are within arm’s length of one another.”

Santa Clara County has COVID-19 cases

As a preface for this recommendation, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department noted that as of Thursday 20 people in its jurisdiction had tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Worldwide, there are over 99.800 confirmed cases, more 3,400 deaths. 12 people have died related to the virus in the United States.

Apple has not yet made a statement about when or where it will hold its WWDC 2020. So far, the Adobe Summit, Facebook’s F8 developer conference, Mobile World Congress and the Microsoft MVP Global Summit were canceled due to coronavirus concerns.

Cult of Mac has confirmed Apple has contracted for WWDC 2020 to be held in June at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. The conference typically draws 6,000 or so developers to the Bay Area for face-to-face encounters with Apple employees.

Virtual WWDC 2020 a possibility

Santa Clara County is the heart of Silicon Valley, and it encompasses an area southeast of San Francisco that covers more than Apple’s home town Cupertino. Also included is Google’s headquarters in Mountain View. Google said this week it would turn Google I/O 2020 into an online-only event.

It’s possible Apple could follow suit with WWDC 2020, still hold the event, but stream it online with no attendees. For many, that’s already how they experience it. For years, the company has streamed conference videos of keynotes and classes to the world.

The other option could be delaying the conference. That said, the company traditionally reveals new versions of its operating systems during its developers conference at the beginning of the summer, then launches various computers running them — particularly new iPhone models — a few months later. That would leave little room for a postponement.

Risks for possible March product keynote

Under the new Santa Clara County Public Health Department guidelines recommending the postponing or canceling of mass gatherings, a possible Apple product keynote, rumored to be in the works for this month, could also be in jeopardy.

Apple now conducts its product keynotes at the Steve Jobs Theatre at Apple Park. The theater, located on the company’s sprawling new Cupertino campus, holds approximately 1,000 people.

Apple is rumored to be planning an event this month at its headquarters in Cupertino, California, to announce new products. The lineup for a potential keynote could include a successor to the low-cost iPhone SE.

Apple has not replied to multiple requests from Cult of Mac seeking comment regarding the status of a possible upcoming product keynote and WWDC 2020.