Should Apple cancel the physical portion of WWDC because of coronavirus?

Craig Federighi at WWDC 2019
Craig Federighi at WWDC 2019 (Image credit: Apple)

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has caused a pandemic across the globe. It seems that everything is being delayed or canceled because of it, and just in the tech space either — the upcoming James Bond film, No Time To Die, has just been delayed from the original April release all the way into November.

But as far as the tech world is concerned, COVID-19 has claimed two major developer conferences this year: Google I/O and Microsoft's MVP Summit. Both of these events have taken down the physical portion of both developer conferences, so not all hope is lost — they're still going to happen, but only digitally.

The MVP Summit is happening later this month, while Google I/O is taking place in May. With Apple's WWDC usually occurring in June, should Apple follow suit with Google and Microsoft and turn WWDC into a digital-only event?

Apple should be concerned for its employees' well-being, as well as the general public

I believe that given the current events happening all over the world right now regarding COVID-19, Apple should follow suit with both Google and Microsoft and cancel the physical part of WWDC this year. After all, it's better to be safe than sorry. Holding a large event right now is a considerable risk, and honestly, no company wants to be liable should someone get infected with COVID-19 at one of these events.

WWDC sessions can be streamed

Personally, I've not been to WWDC myself, but I know developers go to learn about the latest updates and changes that Apple brought into its developer tools, APIs, frameworks, and more. I'm sure that these sessions start off with something like a keynote presentation and some demo involving Xcode or an iOS device, and stuff like this can definitely be live-streamed or at least turned into a video that someone can watch at their leisure.

Of course, when it comes time for the hands-on with these new developer tools, developers could just tinker around with them at home using their own Macs. As long as they have a capable machine, which they would already be using for app and software development, I don't see this being a problem.

Sometimes we do get hardware announcements at WWDC, so if Apple is planning on doing a refresh for its MacBook or iMac line, it could also stream those announcement keynotes too.

More companies should be allowing remote work

With the COVID-19 outbreak running rampant, it's much safer for more employees to just work remotely from home. So even if the physical part of WWDC is canceled, those who are in charge of the virtual sessions with attendees can simply work remotely from home. It can show off new developer tools, answer questions, and connect with attendees without leaving the house.

Yes, it may not be what more extroverted people prefer, but it's completely doable.

It doesn't go without challenges

While it's in everyone's best interest, having to cancel the physical portion of a huge developer conference is not without its own set of challenges. People usually look forward to these events every year, even if they aren't actually attending the event because they just want face-to-face interaction with others in the industry.

From what I've seen every year for the past decade, a lot of the people I know on social media, like Twitter, congregate in the area that WWDC is held just to hang out with online buddies, network with other developers, or even meet their friends for the first time. If Apple were to cancel the physical part of WWDC, then this will interrupt those yearly traditions for people.

Another thing is that WWDC usually has a lottery system for who can purchase tickets for the event. Developers (and others) look forward to the event every year as a chance to network and mingle, but the tickets themselves are not cheap — if you're spending that much, you'll want to have the full experience, such as meeting other like-minded individuals.

Plus, those who will have purchased their tickets would also be booking flights and hotel stays around the same time. So if Apple canceled the physical event, well, that can lead to some major headaches to deal with in regards to canceling flights, hotels, and other plans.

What do you think?

I'm hoping that the whole COVID-19 stuff blows over soon, but in the meantime, it seems like everything is canceled or postponed. I always look forward to WWDC, so if that's next on the list, I would definitely be sad, but can't say that it wasn't coming.

Hoping that Apple doesn't cancel the physical part of WWDC? Let us know in the comments.

Christine Chan

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed.

When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.