Apple announced WWDC 2013 on the day after the quarterly earnings conference call with analysts. The gist of which has been generally interpreted as “loosing steam”. Tim Cook seemed to imply that Apple would not be releasing any significant hardware products before the fourth quarter of 2013. This was further underlined by Apple giving guidance that sales would be slow for this current quarter.
Last year WWDC sold out in under two hours, much to the chagrin of many developers from the west coast of the USA because it was all other before many of them could get out of bed.
Much had been speculated how Apple would counteract an even faster sell out of tickets for WWDC 2013. One unexpected move had been Apple inviting a few select companies to send people to key Apple subsidiaries for design and tech reviews of their most important apps. They did that instead of doing a road show, which had served as a “WWDC Mini” for many people.
Those review sessions arguably provided a higher value for those lucky chosen ones. Instead of having to sit through warmed up evangelizing talks you got the really valuable meat of Apple events: interacting with Apple employees.
The fear of missing out was enough for many people paying good money or using some free service to give them a slight advantage in the race for tickets. Or at least have the relaxing feeling of knowing that you will know when there is something to know.
For me Pingdom wins this year’s price. For the low price tag of FREE their SMS was the very first thing that told me that the WWDC page had changed. I was monitoring for the presence of text that would not have made any sense any more this year.
Nobody would have guessed that Apple would change their approach. Instead of making tickets available out of the blue they changed their routine. Apple pre-announced the announcement.
Tickets go on sale worldwide on April 25 at 10 a.m. PDT.
By changing their routine they immediately deflated the importance of all these monitoring activities and services. No point in them whatsoever if you know the exact date in advance.
In 2012 Apple had clearly underestimated the run on the tickets, so this time they moved the starting time to much later, at a comfortable 10 am. So you can get to the office, grab some coffee, set up your Mac and clarify which credit card to use without even breaking a sweat.
For us Europeans it is only slightly more inconvenient being at 7 pm. I take that time any time. We won’t lose any sleep over it either.
Apple graciously confirmed the event dates that we had been suspecting since February from scouring the Moscone West event calendar. Apple can only ever go with a week where all 3 levels of this venues are available. There is simply no other place in San Francisco (or close to Cupertino) that can take on over 5500 people.
Which is why I had already reserved a conveniently located Hotel in the vicinity. I’m glad that I did and I didn’t have to change or cancel my reservation.
Scalpers That Are
Any company selling “hot tickets” has a problem with scalpers. The first step in Apple’s ultimate sherlocking of these had been to limit sales to 1 for individuals and 5 for companies. But in 2012 you still got ticket codes which you could redeem on any Apple ID… or pass them on.
Also there had been quite a few problems with an algorithm that Apple had devised to find people who where buying too many tickets. Many celebrity developers found their purchased tickets revoked because they had used the same credit card for multiple purchases. After much swearing Apple reinstated many such mistankenly disenfranchised.
This year Apple is even more strict:
Ticket purchases are limited to one (1) per person and five (5) per organization. The same credit card may be used up to five (5) times to purchase all of the tickets for your organization. However, each team member must sign in with their own Apple ID and purchase their own ticket.
Not only does that away with transferable ticket codes, but it also eliminates an unfair advantage of owners of company developer accounts. As company you could simply type 5 in the quantity box and check out with one payment. Then you could take your time to distribute the ticket codes to any 5 of your team members.
Under the new rules a company can still buy 5 tickets on the same credit card but you can only buy one at a time. Also each Apple ID will immediately be tied to the ticket without any possibility of transfer.
Well, almost no possibility:
WWDC tickets are non-transferable. Tickets (including activation codes) may not be sold, resold, bartered, auctioned, or transferred in any way. Apple reserves the right to cancel your ticket or deactivate your activation code. As an exception to the foregoing, requests to transfer tickets (including activation codes) among team members may be submitted to Apple for consideration at email@example.com. Apple reserves the right to reject any transfer requests. Any other transfers will render the ticket null and void without any responsibility to Apple.
We can just hope that credit card companies won’t block too many accounts for suspected fraudulent activity, being spammed with lots of same value purchases in short time.
Fraudsters That Are Not
Speaking of short time … in theory a company buying 5 tickets in 5 sessions and 5 individuals buying 1 ticket each would take the same amount of time. This would serve as a great equalizer between companies and individual developers.
But you can safely bet that in many companies 5 people will log in at the same time and carry out their purchase in parallel. If all of them use the credit card belonging to their boss this too might raise some red flags at the CC company. How can the holder of the card be spending so much in so little time?
Hopefully those credit fraud agents will be lenient, Apple is one of their best clients after all.
The other problem Apple might be facing is that with the availability time known beforehand they need an amazing backend to handle thousands of sessions at the same time. If you let the whole world storm in at the same minute that’s a Denial-of-Service scenario par excellence.
Apple’s bit weakness to date has been that their web activities were relying on outdated technologies that are impossible to scale. Handling this year’s ticket sales without hiccup would serve as proof that Apple has finally begun to be serious about the Internet.
Let’s be frank: With troves of developers jumping the iCloud ship they could really do with a win. I have a feeling that they are engineering for one.
Might Skip This Year
It had almost turned into a running gag last year when people tweeted that they would be in San Francisco without actually being in attendance of WWDC 2012. If you are there for the companionship and community, there are a plethora of events fighting over the title “Best Alternative to WWDC”.
But this year I am getting the vibes from many well-known developers like fellow Austrian Peter Steinberger that they are going to skip WWDC altogether. Not just the event itself, they won’t even come to San Francisco.
The most often heard reason for not attending is “I’ll just watch the videos afterwards”. Apple has been breaking their own previous record every year recently how quickly they will make the videos available. This year is no exception: they are so confident in their preparation and hardware that they will make the videos available already during WWDC:
Can’t make it to WWDC? We’ll be posting videos of all our sessions during the conference, so Registered Apple Developers can take advantage of great WWDC content.
I remember a few years ago you had to shell out a couple of hundred dollars to get the videos. Last year you had to wait 1 week. This year you have to almost not wait at all. Though I would be really surprised if Apple would switch to streaming the tracks live. No, they will probably be using their own Compressor 4 running on a massive cluster of Mac Pros.
This move effectively eliminates people who would have come “only for the talks”.
A Couple More Things
I am pretty sure that the psychedelic square logo with roman numerals hints at some exciting announcements and new technologies to be previewed at WWDC. Stuff that will be shipped in the fall, but requires developers building specific apps for. Stuff that – because it is a new kind of platform – will require longer lead times for people to come up with ideas for useful apps.
Some people see the Apple-typical rounded rect that could only be the symbol for a watch face. Roman numerals like they had on classic watches? iWatch!
Others see a tube-like TV, although the aspect ratio would be off. But maybe Apple’s “hobby” AppleTV hockey puck gets an order of magnitude more OOMPH? Can you saw “Ouya Killer”? If only there was an SDK that would let us write apps for the AppleTV …
And then there are iOS 7 and a new OS X looming with the former having already been spotted in server logs, but the latter cat not yet been even hinted at.
Granted you will get these infos also on the developer portal and from the videos. But I want to be amongst those who were in the room when these next quantum leaps are being unveiled.
Apple still knows how to surprise and delight us developers.
They are combining activities that aim to reduce the circle of people who “need” to attend WWDC with sweeping policy changes that insure a fair chance at at ticket for everybody.
In the least this is proof that Apple learns from their errors and keeps finding engineering and organizational solutions that keep improving the experience for us developers.