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Forget the keynote. WWDC is still about the developers

Ryan Faas | June 11, 2013
Why do you think Apple's App Store has such a robust catalogue of apps?

More than any other company, Apple has proven how important a committed and engaged developer community is to success in today's technology business. Without that community, the iPhone might never have gained much traction and the iPad might never have made it to market at all. There's a reason Apple's App Store has such a healthy retinue of apps, and that ecosystem is a big reason for the success of Apple's iDevices.

Other companies are often judged in comparison to Apple and Google because of the communities both mobile leaders have created. One of the most common reasons cited for Windows RT's failure in the market is its lack of apps. BlackBerry, hoping to gain some ground on its own, has piggy-backed on the success of Android developers while Barnes & Noble recently found itself opening its Nook platform to the Google Play store because of the limited apps and content available for its devices.

WWDC is the event where Apple gets buy-in from developers for its upcoming OS revisions. It doesn't matter what system features, new hardware, APIs, or user experience elements Apple creates for iOS or OS X if developers don't incorporate them. Multitouch gestures have limited use or appeal if they only work in Apple's apps, Passbook would be pretty pointless if the only stores where it worked were Apple stores, the enterprise mobile management features that have helped iOS conquer the competition in the Fortune 500 would be near useless if companies like MobileIron and Airwatch didn't support and integrate them into existing enterprise infrastructures.

Whatever Apple unveils this week, publicly or behind the screen of any non-disclosure agreements, it needs to get its developers fired up about their products. That is particularly acute if the company does unveil plans for a completely new product like an iWatch or even a major upgrade to an existing product such as additional apps for Apple TVs. Even something as basic as a new form factor for iOS devices will need active developer support. Imagine if no developers had chosen to build specific apps for the iPad and it had come to market relying almost entirely on scaled-up iPhone apps. Not only does a new product require developer engagement, it requires developers to get up to speed on creating apps for it and to get those apps to market in a very short time-frame.

For developers (and some IT professionals), WWDC is not just about finding out what Apple is planning. It's more about learning how Apple software works, what they can do with it, how they can market it, how they can integrate new features with their existing iOS and Mac apps, and how they can integrate the changes with other products or solutions. It's also about learning how to write cleaner code, debug software better and more efficiently, use Apple's developer tools to their best, and get help from the Apple's engineers — the ultimate experts — in fixing a stubborn problems. It's also about networking opportunities that simply don't exist in everyday contexts.


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