WWDC20 – Apple’s Keynote Conference Goes Virtual

Ben FreelandProduct news and reviews

This week Apple marked the midpoint of a truly strange year with an appropriately unusual event. Its first entirely virtual Worldwide Developers Conference. While the 31-year-old event has always been hard to get into (with tickets costing a cool $1,599, obtained through an online lottery), this year’s conference was entirely impossible to attend in person. The entire conference streamed via video footage recorded at Apple Park in Cupertino, California.

As always, the event came with a parade of fresh announcements from Apple HQ. Some of which were hotly anticipated, while others caught the tech community by surprise.

Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off the event with an impassioned plea for tolerance and racial harmony in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd and the subsequent public outpouring of anger across the US and beyond.

In addition to restating his commitment to Apple’s $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, unveiled earlier this month, Cook also announced the creation of an entrepreneur camp for black developers. Day 3 of the conference also featured former US Attorney General Eric Holder. He urged developers to use their skills to fight for racial justice in a conversation with Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives.

So, What’s New?

The five-day conference also featured a host of new Apple offerings and innovations, including:

  • iOS 14, together with its sister platforms iPadOS 14, watchOS 7, and tvOS 14;
  • macOS Big Sur, Apple’s latest generation desktop operating system;
  • A new app library, which automatically organizes and intelligently curates apps, while offering suggestions for specific times of day;
  • A major Siri redesign, including, among other things, advanced translation software;
  • Pinned conversations in Messages. This will allow users to stay on top of lively group threads by way of mentions and inline replies;
  • New memoji features, including a wider range of age options and optional COVID face masks;
  • Upgraded Apple Maps with dedicated cycling and EV routing options;
  • New AirPod software that provides spatial audio and seamless transition between devices; and
  • A promised transition from Intel processors to custom ARM processors for the entire Macintosh suite of personal computers. This includes a prototype ARM-based Mac for developer use.

With the WWDC event normally capped at a maximum of 6,000 in-person participants, WWDC20 was easily the largest conference in Apple history. Organizers expected the 2020 program to involve Apple’s entire global developer community. This included over 23 million registered developers in more than 155 countries and regions.

“We are delivering WWDC 2020 this June in an innovative way to millions of developers around the world, bringing the entire developer community together with a new experience.” Said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, ahead of the conference. “The current health situation has required that we create a new WWDC 2020 format that delivers a full program with an online keynote and sessions, offering a great learning experience for our entire developer community, all around the world.”

For more information on what went on at WWDC20, visit Apple’s online newsroom.