When Apple (AAPL) announced plans for their annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC 2010) earlier this month, there was some trepidation among tech journalists and pundits. This year’s WWDC was to focus almost exclusively on the iPhone (4G?), iPad, and associated ecosystem of iTunes and apps. For the first time in a long time, perhaps ever, the Mac was taking a back seat to the new darling at Apple. Some said the developer base would react poorly to the conference structure while others predicted a backlash. But as is often the case, the exact opposite of what the media feared has come true. As reported on several technology blogs and news sites today, the WWDC has sold out. In eight days.
Yes, you read that correctly. Eight days ago tickets went on sale for WWDC 2010 ranging in price from $1295 to $1599 USD and now they’re sold out. What more of an amazing comment on the importance of the iPhone / iPad product line than that. While I’m sure there were some Mac application developers that were put out by the deemphasis of their platform, I think any smart developer interested in making money has at least one iPhone or iPad app in the works or already in the App Store. Macs are increasingly becoming specialist tools, a development platform of choice and I think Apple understands that and acknowledges it with the way they’ve structured this year’s conference.
Now I’m not saying the Mac application development is dead. There will always be a need for a development platform. If Apple wanted to create a compiler and IDE that ran on the iPad they could, I have no doubt the platform has the computing power to do that. The differentiation between the two platforms though is distinct and done on purpose. The iPad is a consumer-class device for product consumption. You can type documents, make spreadsheets, compose e-mails, and make presentations but at the end of the day most people are sitting on the couch with their iPad reading a child Alice in Wonderland or watching the latest episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The same people that might have bought a baseline MacBook for those tasks now have a device specialized and streamlined to perform them. The Mac then becomes the developers tool of choice and what are developers making? Yeah, developers are making iPhone and iPad apps. Doesn’t it all make sense now? Developers may show up at the conference with their MacBook Pro but what they really want to do is make apps.
So even in the subtlety of how Apple has structured a developer’s conference we can see a glimpse of their future plans. iPads and iPhone 4G are for the public. Apple wants them to be ubiquitous and everyone to have three or four of them. The general population doesn’t need to worry about how to make applications or muck with their device, eliminating much of the worry involved in the operation of today’s generally available PC. Do people kind of hold their breath and hope their iPad boots like most Windows users do? Of course not. Macs on the other hand are for developers and the specialist classes. They need keyboards and mice, they need large screens that are easy to look at for long periods of time. They need to know about what they’re making and what they’re making are apps; and lots of them.
What do you make of the WWDC reception? Is it a projection of the strength of the platform or simply the fervor of its devotees? What do you want to see come out of the conference from a consumer perspective? Are you attending? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.