Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Stephen Hackett

Is WWDC a hardware event?

If you ask a bunch of people in Apple community if WWDC is a hardware event or not, you’ll get a bunch of different answers, but I think most people consider WWDC to be a software event mostly aimed at developers.

What does Tim Cook have up his sleeves this year?

I don’t think that’s wrong. The bulk of WWDC takes place in sessions and labs, where developers get an in-depth look at what makes Apple’s updated operating systems and platforms tick.

Over the years, however, WWDC has also become a place for Apple to speak to the public. Sure, most users don’t know what it is, but for those who are plugged into what the company is doing, the WWDC keynote is a big deal.

As such, I got wondering. How many WWDCs actually feature hardware announcements in addition to the traditional software news?

I decided to look back twenty years. It’s a nice round number, and it’s roughly the start of the modern era, as Mac OS X was taking shape pretty nicely by 2000. And in fact, WWDC has been used for hardware product announcements in 13 of those years.1

I have to admit, I was pretty surprised by the number. A full 65% of the time, Apple has hardware news to share from the WWDC stage:

  • 2001: A 17-inch LCD, joining the 15 and 22-inch models
  • 2003: The Power Mac G5 and iSight camera
  • 2004: Updated Apple Cinema Displays, now in aluminum, in 20, 23 and 30-inch sizes
  • 2005: Intel Developer Transition Kit
  • 2006: The first Mac Pro and Intel Xserve
  • 2008: iPhone 3G
  • 2009: iPhone 3GS and updated MacBook Pros
  • 2010: iPhone 4
  • 2012: Updated notebooks and the first Retina MacBook Pro
  • 2013: Trash can Mac Pro preview
  • 2017: Updated notebooks and iMacs, HomePod and iMac Pro previews
  • 2019: Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR previews
  • 2020: Apple silicon Developer Transition Kit

Other than that rash of iPhones in the late 2000s, when Apple has hardware news to make at WWDC, it usually pertains to high-end Mac hardware.

I don’t think the 65/35 split is enough in and of itself to make predictions about future WWDCs—and it falls to 50/50 if you only consider the last decade—but I think it can be a factor when considering the rumors that swell before the annual event. I don’t know if Apple has new Macs ready to go for next week, but we can’t rule it out, that’s for sure.

  1. The number is 11 out of 20 if you don’t count the Intel Developer Transition Kit and the much newer Apple silicon DTK. I’m counting them. 

[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]

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