By Jason Snell
April 30, 2016 12:18 PM PT
Is it June yet?
Last month I wrote this column on an iPad from among the trees and granite monoliths of Yosemite, while this month I’m back at my desk in Mill Valley, typing it right into the 27-inch maw of my iMac. It’s spring here, but in my mind it’s already summer. That’s because this week Apple announced the dates for WWDC, the annual Apple developer conference, this June in San Francisco.
For people who follow Apple closely, every year has a pace to it, and for the past few years, the centerpiece of the year has been WWDC. The reason for that is simple: since the evaporation of Macworld Expo, WWDC is the only event that gathers a critical mass of Apple developers and media in a single place. If you’re going to get together with the people who write apps and record podcasts and the like, in person, this is the place to do it.
It’s a different feel from Macworld Expo, to be sure. That show was cool in that it combined not just members of the press and the developer community, but the general public as well. Most of Macworld Expo’s attendees were from Northern California, though, so it was hardly a representative slice of the user community—though some people did come from far and wide to be at the center of the Mac universe for a week.
With Macworld Expo gone, WWDC week has transformed a bit. On the inside, it’s still the developer conference it always was—though it’s a much more packed venue than it was back in the pre-iPhone days. It’s on the outside, around the Moscone West convention center, that things are different. People come for WWDC week and don’t attend the conference. They come for the event outside the walls of Moscone, the parties and get-togethers that take advantage of the fact that all of these people are in the same city, even if we’re not all inside the event itself. Alternate events have sprung up, too, including AltConf and Layers, to serve audiences that can’t (or don’t want to) get in to the main event.
It’s a weird week for me. I was pointing out to all the people in the Slack chat room we have for hosts of the Relay FM podcast network that, out of their entire group, I’m the only one who actually lives in the Bay Area. Everyone else is excited about coming to San Francisco that week, but I’m already here! (More or less. My house is a 30-minute drive north of the convention center.)
In any event, my thoughts are already turning to June and WWDC. Sometimes there are hardware announcements, but not usually. People always seem disappointed when Apple doesn’t announce new hardware at WWDC, but it’s a developer conference—software is always going to be the main area of interest.
I realize that for many members of the press, the only thing that’s exciting is fresh new Apple hardware… but the announcements Apple makes at WWDC are monumental. These are the announcements that will shape the way Apple’s customers use Apple hardware, old and new, for the next few years.
That’s because WWDC is where we see where Apple’s software platforms are going. What’s the future of Apple Watch? As someone who wears an Apple Watch every day, I have a long list of things that I’d like to see improved (or entirely reconsidered). Where does Apple think that watchOS is lacking? We’ll get an idea when they (presumably) announce watchOS 3 at WWDC.
Of course, the next version of iOS will also be on the agenda, and a new version of OS X as well. We’ll find out how much effort Apple wants to put into iOS features for the iPad Pro. I’ve written and spoken repeatedly about my feelings that Apple needs to ditch the “X” branding and change the name back to Mac OS, and given the trend—watchOS, iOS, tvOS—it seems like it might actually happen.
Branding aside, though, every OS announcement from Apple tells us volumes about Apple’s priorities and where it thinks its products are going. No single day will set the table for Apple’s future direction like June 13. This is the software that we’ll all be living with come fall, and for years to come. It’s exciting! I can’t wait.