WWDC of the Future

So WWDC 2012 was announced at early o’ clock and sold out in less than two hours. New restrictions on multiple purchases didn’t do anything to stave the ever-shortening window. As compensation for all the interested developers who won’t get to go to WWDC this year, Apple has promised to quickly post the session videos online (as they’ve done in the past few years).

Which leads me to ask: why is WWDC still worth attending? WWDC’s allure has always been the exclusive combination of three features: the sessions, the labs, and the social interaction with the worldwide Cocoa community. Now that the sessions can be gotten online mere days after the conference (and have lately been repeated locally during the Tech Talk series), and much of the community wasn’t even awake to purchase tickets, the only remaining feature of WWDC is the direct access to Apple engineers provided by the labs.

Maybe it’s time to think of a post-WWDC world. Or perhaps a world in which an event named WWDC still exists but bears no resemblance to the event we currently know.

What if instead of a week-long conference in the Moscone Center, Apple held a three-week-long open house during which developers could sign up for one-on-one sessions with Apple engineers? This open house would be prefixed by a livestreamed keynote and the release of prerecorded session materials. The actual WWDC “event” would become a festival of sorts, emanating from but not tied to a physical location.

Apple clearly benefits from the excitement that surrounds WWDC, and there’s no need to get rid of that. They could hold a press-only WWDC Kickoff Keynote sometime in late Spring. Following the keynote, Apple would post prerecorded session videos on the Developer Center and publicly announce the dates during which the open house will occur, likely starting in mid-June and ending in early July. This would give developers time to digest the material and, importantly, schedule a timeslot during the open house to meet with an Apple engineer (or UX designer or Review team member).

All of a sudden the entire “crunch” disappears. All registered developers get access to the same information at the same time. They have time to schedule a brief trip to Cupertino rather than a week-long ordeal. Developers can coordinate among themselves to meet in San Francisco around their sessions. And Apple’s engineers aren’t pulled away from their desks for a week, but scheduled to be unavailable to their teams for short periods of time well in advance.

WWDC could be the Cocoa community’s Easter Season, celebrated everywhere but especially in the Bay Area.