Apple’s WWDC keynote was like no other. Why that is a great point

It was not the exact as being at WWDC in man or woman, but Apple set on a very good demonstrate.


If you have ever questioned how rapidly 5,000 seats in a conference centre auditorium can fill up, Apple’s All over the world Builders Conference is a fantastic gauge. I can say from individual experience that the functioning group of enthusiastic Apple enthusiasts, some of whom have literally knocked me down to the carpeted floor in their hurry to get a seat up front close to firm executives and celebrity guests, has clocked in at 5 minutes — or fewer.

This is why Apple’s conclusion to host a virtual model of WWDC this calendar year in a nod to social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic — and just after Fb and Google canceled their developer events in Could — was considered as a type of instant in tech land. 

Could Apple, whose slickly staged functions have established a higher bar for item unveilings, pull off a virtual keynote with the prosper and aptitude of its in-human being extravaganzas and without the need of the clapping crowds? Could Apple come up with a design for offering product or service news that the rest of the sector might duplicate even though we’re in lockdown? Would reporters, investors and partners tune in and find some thing exciting to check out, with no initially becoming plied with gourmet pastries, vegan snacks and significant-octane espressos brewed by Cafe Mac baristas? 

The answer, judging by the reaction I have listened to from builders, field analysts, users and even several of us journalists who’ve also rushed for seats: Yep. And the digital party may be the start off of much more to appear.

“Whilst it can’t possibly really feel the same in in this article with out you,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the outset of Monday’s keynote speech, “this calendar year we’re delivering the convention in a  full new way to all of you around the environment, right to your household.”

It may not truly feel the exact same as currently being there in man or woman. And don’t get me completely wrong, there is value in owning deal with-to-deal with time with executives and many others. But Apple confirmed that we actually don’t need to travel to protect just about every major products party in man or woman, specially throughout a pandemic.

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WWDC 2020’s biggest announcements


In a one hour, 48 minute show mostly filmed at the Steve Jobs Theater at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, Cook and a cadre of executives talked about updated versions of Apple’s key software. They demoed the new iOS 14 mobile operating system that powers its money-making iPhone, the latest iteration of the MacOS system software, dubbed Big Sur, and new software features for the Apple Watch, including an app that monitors when you’re washing your hands to let you know if you’ve scrubbed them for long enough. Apple plans to dig deeper into each topic in sessions that are now available to the public.  

“This will probably be the most effective WWDC Apple has ever had since it allowed them to bring in more developers than the 5,000 they can squeeze into a physical event,” said longtime analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies, who has attended hundreds of Apple events. “In that sense, it was a highly successful format that meets the needs of Apple developers.”

Apple didn’t tell me how many people tuned in for the keynote, but WWDC was a trending topic on social media during the event, and iOS 14 remained a top trending term throughout the day. Apple’s shares were also up during the keynote and closed up 2.6 percent to $358.87 in regular trading on Monday, a sign that investors were happy with the software news and the company’s decision to start making Mac computers with its own chips.

While the 5,000 tickets to the developers conference typically cost $1,600 and sell out within hours, Apple is making this week’s WWDC demos, product labs and 100 engineering video sessions free to its 23 million registered developers around the world as well as “anyone interested” in joining in, Cook said. 

“It’s about moving the platforms forward,” said one Apple insider, who asked not to be named. “The world is counting on all of us — Apple and our developer community — to help move forward. That’s why we felt it was incredibly important to hold the conference this year but to do it in an entirely new and unique way.”

Apple isn’t the first company to stage a big product rollout during the coronavirus. In April, OnePlus did an hour-long live keynote with a single presenter onstage addressing a “big empty room” to unveil its new handset. Executives around the world dropped in, Zoom-like, to add their thoughts amid the recorded marketing videos. (One of my colleagues described watching it as “brutal.”) 

In May, Microsoft’s Xbox team hosted a virtual event, announcing new games for its Xbox Series X console launching in the fall. But Microsoft’s presentation, billed as a reveal of new games and what it’ll look like playing them, was panned by fans who felt it didn’t give them what they wanted, my colleague Ian Sherr reported. “Clearly we set some wrong expectations & that’s on us,” tweeted Aaron Greenberg, a general manager of Xbox games marketing.

Apple's Jenny Chen demos new handwriting capabilities in iPadOS 14.

During the WWDC 2020 keynote, Apple’s Jenny Chen showed off the new handwriting capabilities in iPadOS 14.


In contrast, Apple took us many places, passing the screen back and forth between Cook and executives in other parts of the Apple Park headquarters, showing software chief Craig Federighi running around the Steve Jobs Theater and even cutting to an executive in an “undisclosed location” where its new silicon was developed, a nod to Apple’s penchant for secrecy. The video quality was, as usual, pretty slick. “Apple excels in its video and graphics,” said Bajarin. 

He wasn’t the only one who gave Apple high marks for its production. 

Instead of hosting the keynote live, Apple recorded it in a way that struck the “right balance between being well produced but not overproduced,” said Carolina Milanesi, another longtime tech analyst who’s attended dozens of Apple events in person over the years. 

“The advantage [with] everybody being digital is that we all get first-row seats, which really democratizes the event,” she said. “Digital events might also bring a more inclusive lineup of speakers, and that is simply because you have access to people in different locations and the advantage of recording versus being live. And this morning did feel more inclusive than usual.”

In addition to Cook, Apple had eight men and 11 women take us through the news — probably the most women I’ve ever seen onstage at one of Apple’s product events.

Milanesi also applauded Cook for kicking off the keynote by voicing his support for Black Lives Matter and acknowledging the civil unrest in the US after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed by Minneapolis police last month. Apple has pledged $100 million to fight for racial justice. Cook also thanked those on the front line battling the coronavirus. Apple closed the keynote with credits describing the health and safety precautions it put in place to produce the event, including daily health screenings and temperature checks, social distancing, having its executives wear masks except when talking on-camera and making sure production locations were sanitized. 

“Many big companies were watching it for how it was created and delivered,” said Bajarin. “I do think that we will see more events move to this model in the future. It is much cheaper than holding in-person events. And it also still gets the information to the people that count.”

And it does all that without anyone getting trampled.  

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