Why coronavirus will mean no Apple WWDC 2020

I’ve lost track of the number of tech conferences that have been canceled, postponed, or turned into virtual events because of coronavirus/COVID-19. Now all eyes are on Apple and its WWDC gathering, which typically happens in June.

WWDC is a big deal for Apple. While most people are only familiar with the keynote speech, where we’re given a glimpse into what Apple has in the pipeline in terms of new hardware and software, WWDC is much more than the keynote. It’s a place where developers get to rub shoulders for five days with Apple engineers, developers, and executives.

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That doesn’t seem like a smart idea for a number of reasons.

First, bringing six thousand developers from all around the globe and putting them in the same building in San Jose for a week sounds like a bad idea. In fact, Apple might have a hard time convincing developers to pay the $1,599 entry fee, given the current atmosphere.

Then there’s the real and massive risk to Apple itself.

WWDC will be full of Apple employees critical to delivering hardware and software, and a coronavirus outbreak at the Cupertino HQ could put the aggressive iOS, macOS, and even iPhone development and deployment schedules at risk.

Apple doesn’t usually announce the date for WWDC until April (last year’s March announcement was usually early). This means that the company has time to assess the situation, and that could mean it will be a few weeks before we know for sure that WWDC 2020 is going to be canceled. But given the size and scale of the coronavirus/COVID-19, it seems unlikely that Apple will choose to bring thousands of people from all over the world and put them in a room with a good chunk of the company’s high-level staff.

My guess — and it is a guess — is that Apple has already canceled the physical meet part of WWDC 2020, and is now putting together secondary plans, which will likely consist of a streamed keynote and developer sessions, and possible virtual development labs.

And who knows, coronavirus could pave the way for more virtual conferences, which from an environmental standpoint wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

Apple could find itself reinventing tech conferences.

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