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Apple needs to rethink its WWDC approach

Philip Michaels | April 27, 2012
As a company, Apple gets a lot of things right. It built a phone that set the standard for an entire industry, with handset makers still playing catch up with the iPhone five years after that product's debut. With the iPad, Apple created a product we didn't even realize we needed and now can't possibly imagine living without. And, lest we forget, it also does a respectable business making computers.

As a company, Apple gets a lot of things right. It built a phone that set the standard for an entire industry, with handset makers still playing catch up with the iPhone five years after that product's debut. With the iPad, Apple created a product we didn't even realize we needed and now can't possibly imagine living without. And, lest we forget, it also does a respectable business making computers.

Yes, the list of things that Apple absolutely nails is a long and accomplished one. Which is good, because it's pretty terrible at announcing developer conferences.

In case you missed it--and if you live west of the Rockies, there's a pretty good chance you did--Apple announced the dates for the 2012 edition of its annual Worldwide Developers Conference at the slightly-less-than-godly hour of 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time Wednesday. That's when WWDC tickets went on sale, and eager developers promptly snapped them up--so promptly, in fact, that it took just two hours for WWDC to sell out. That means, if you're a Mac or iOS developer doing business in the Pacific time zone, chances are good that WWDC 2012 was announced and sold out long before you stumbled out of bed and had that first cup of coffee to begin your work day.

On the scale of knuckleheaded moves, that's Ninth Level Stooge-ism. Creating software isn't typically an early-to-bed/early-to-rise kind of profession. The odds are pretty good that West Coast-based developers weren't perched in front of their Macs, iPhones, and iPads before the sun was up on the off chance that Wednesday would be the day of all days that Apple finally revealed its WWDC plans. "You snooze, you lose" may be a snappy rejoinder for online forums, but it doesn't seem a particularly smart way to treat a sizable chunk of the people who enthusiastically build things for your assorted platforms.

And that's why we shouldn't off-handedly dismiss complaints about WWDC ticketing as sour grapes from people who found themselves on the wrong side of the Continental Divide. Apple values its secrecy, and on the product release front, that serves the company well--I say that as an ink-stained wretch who experiences comet-sightings more frequently than returned phone calls from Cupertino. But a developers conference isn't a new iPad or a hush-hush OS feature or some unexpected Mac upgrade: It's an actual event that people who make their livelihood in this racket might want a shot at attending. Yes, by springing the news of WWDC on everyone, Apple reaps the benefits from headlines of how quickly the event sold out, underscoring how popular its products are. But it's doing so at the expense of people who have contributed to the popularity of those products.

 

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