WWDC 2021

It’s WWDC Eve. What Will Apple’s Second Streamed Keynote Be Like?

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WWDC 2021

Apple’s second consecutive streamed WWDC will kick off tomorrow, starting with their yearly Keynote event. Last year’s WWDC landed right in the heart of the first wave of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, but after the point where many people and companies had figured out how to get work done around the new constraints that COVID-19 put on the world.

Amid early concerns over whether Apple could pull its yearly developer event off, and if so, how polished it would look, the company really impressed with a very well-produced streamed event that mixed a recorded Keynote with live-streamed classes.

This year’s WWDC comes as the world tries to wrestle free from the final throws of the pandemic. While we can’t say it’s entirely over worldwide. the numbers are lower than they have been since the early days here in the US thanks to the steady rollout and administration of vaccines. However, even though the world is steadily opening back up, there is no way Apple could have made the call to do WWDC in-person months ago, and it would still be pushing it a little bit to pull a full in-person event of this size off today.

It made since for Apple to stick with the streaming format for another year. Maybe for more than just one reason, but more on that in a moment.

The schedule

Tomorrow’s schedule is different than normal. Typically, we have the Keynote in the morning to lunchtime, depending on your time zone, with the more detailed State of the Union address in the afternoon.

Tomorrow’s Keynote will be at 10 AM Pacific (11 AM Mountain, 12 PM Central, 1 PM Eastern) as usual, but then we have something new. Apple just announced an Apple Music Special Event immediately following the Keynote at 12 PM Pacific.

This added event will cover Apple’s new Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos features and possibly their new Lossless Audio features, as well. It’s interesting that Apple has chosen to break this content out from the Keynote. I read this as Apple having a lot to say about these features, enough that it demands its own stand-alone event. If fact, if things hadn’t been so rushed when they first announced these features, this may be the streamed event we would have gotten. It’s also possible Apple is doing this in response to some of the negative tech media blowback over the way they handled the announcement. I guess we will find out tomorrow.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming

After the Apple Music Event at 12 PM Pacific comes the State of the Union speech at 2 PM Pacific. This yearly event is where developers start getting more of the details of new features and answers about them from the designers and engineers who worked on them. For those who really want to know more about Apple’s new goodies, there is a lot that can be learned be taking the extra time to listen in to this event.

I typically haven’t watched the State of the Union, but it wasn’t always made publicly available in the past. However, since everything at WWDC is streamed and readily available these days. I’m thinking I will at least catch the recording of the event tomorrow evening while I’m driving to Nashville.

Developers, developers, developers…

Beyond all of the new features we all either want to see released, or have heard rumored, there is something I will really be watching for during tomorrow’s Keynote. What concessions is Apple going to make to developers to help repair the damage done over the last year or so?

If you recall, it was just before WWDC last year that Apple started having a lot of public problems with multiple developers. In the two most notable cases, Apple and Epic’s falling out occurred on April 13th, and the blow-up over HEY email happened in late June, just before WWDC.

It was a bad look, and it hasn’t gotten better since. Spotify has gotten the EU looking at regulating Apple and its App Store, Apple has had the trial with Epic to deal with, which aired a lot of dirty laundry and featured legal tactics that made a lot of developers pretty angry, US States have been toying with new App Store laws, and the threat of regulation here at home is quite real, as well.

In the middle of all that, Apple did give smaller developers a significant price break on the percentages that they owe a few months ago. This was seen as a positive move to help developer relations at the time, but it’s been long overshadowed since then by Apple legal stance defending its App Store turf.

Earlier in this article, I said that it made sense for Apple to stick with a streaming event this year for more reason than one. That reason would be the possible presence of some boos from developers in the audience during some of the Keynote presentation, followed by some tough questions during some of the sessions. That was never really a possibility during past WWDC Keynotes. Apple is far from perfect, just like any massive corporation, but there’s never been this much negative sentiment built up against them. The Keynote crowd was usually about as pro-Apple an audience as you could find, but I think that fervor would be greatly diminished today.

I’ve often defended Apple’s right to its business model (which I stand by with no equivocation) and their right to make a profit on their Apple Store if they chose to. That said, the mercenary way they’ve gone about it and unrelenting defense of that strategy is the problem. It would cost Apple a lot less in money than it’s losing in reputation with some of their hardline stances, but here we are. They show even less sign of backing down after the Epic trial as ever. Apple definitely made its own bed here.

Tim Cook and his senior execs usually sing the praises of developers and tell them how amazing they are and how important they are to the Apple ecosystem throughout the WWDC Keynote. Unfortunately, that talk doesn’t match up with some of the company’s recent actions, or their legal strategies and defense positions on the work and role of developers during the Epic trial. Because of this, it will be very interesting to see if they stick with the normal WWDC tone tomorrow. Frankly, I think that would be a mistake, as it would just add fuel to the fire of a very vocal band of unhappy developers.

If Apple doesn’t want in-person developers booing them on stage at next year’s WWDC Keynote, the repairs of the bridge between them need to begin tomorrow. I don’t expect any massive changes, but I would be surprised if there weren’t several small ones that have been asked for over recent years. Apple needs to start giving some ground (and some of the money) somewhere, and it makes sense to do it tomorrow when they can get a lot of positive press for it along with all of their new OS and service features.

Whatever happens, tomorrow should be quite a show. I’ll be ready at Noon Central, along with every other hardcore Apple fan and tech blogger. If you want to follow along, I will be Live Tweeting throughout the event @iPadInsightBlog, and will sum up my thoughts on the event, and iPadOS specifically, later in the day.

James Rogers

I am a Christian husband and father of 3 living in the Southeastern US. I have worked as a programmer and project manager in the Commercial and Industrial Automation industry for over 19 years, so I am hands on with technology almost every day. However, my passion in technology is for mobile devices, specifically Apple's iOS and iPadOS hardware and software. My favorite is still the iPad.

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