Apple is Slighting Mac OS X at WWDC. Will it Matter?

Apple has all hands on deck for a discussion of iPhone OS, the iPhone and iPad at WWDC 2010. There won’t be a lot of fanfare over Mac OS X. With 50 million iPhones out there and 1 million iPads sold in 28 days, it makes perfect sense. Here’s why we don’t need to worry about Mac OS X and Macs.

Remember that Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference is not a public event. Only registered Apple developers are invited to attend. And to get those developers excited, Apple focuses on the hot topic: how can developers learn more about the technologies that will make them Big Money.

Moscone West

Credit: Apple, Inc.

I’ve attended WWDC for 17 years now, missing only one in that period, and I can tell you that focusing on the hot technical area, and causing many to fret about other neglected technical areas, is not new to Apple.

When I was at Apple, I know that Apple lost money every year on this event. (That may have changed since.) Apple accepts that because developers (say it fast, three times) are the lifeblood of Apple’s products. If, somehow, developers ever got the slightest notion that the upcoming WWDC would be just another boring conclave of techno geeks discussing the latest Cocoa APIs, then there would be a massive, collective sigh of ennui. Attendance might not beat last year’s. Mr Jobs would be looking at empty chairs. And the press, invited to the keynote address only, might photograph those empty chairs. For all practical purposes, WWDC, while not a publicly atended event, is still an important showcase for Apple. Some shrewd lighting up of the feverish crowd of entrepreneurs — some of Apple’s biggest boosters — is called for.

Also remember that most consumers don’t pay as much attention to the Apple technical community as we here at TMO do. They just come home from the Apple store with their goodies and enjoy them. Of those who are avid readers of the Mac Web, not many of them pay a lot of attention to WWDC’s technical aspects because, duh, they’re not developing.

By the way, that’s why those of us who cover WWDC and are under NDA for the technical content try to bring you a more complete picture of what’s happening there. For example, keynote coverage and commentary, interviews, news from developers, and so on. I’ll be doing an encore of my developer interviews that I did last year.

All in all, Mac OS X developers will have their opportunities. One of the big ones is the developer labs for Mac OS X where developers can sit down with an Apple engineer, compile their code and look at problems, performance issues, and other gotchas that are hard to solve from a distance. This is a major reason for Mac OS X developers to sign up, even if the majority of technical sessions cover the iPhone/iPad.

Of course, the opportunities for developers to socialize and maybe even talk business with each other is vital. Important things happen in the halls of Moscone West, but some equally important things happen in business meetings in those hotel rooms.

Finally, you may hear that this signals the end of Mac OS X as a living, growing operating system. That’s nonsense. Mac OS X and iPhone OS are intimately tied together. Advances in one affect the other. Also, remember that Macs will be around for millions of customers for another decade. You need a Mac right now to:

  • Sync and back up your iPad, iPhone and iPod
  • Develop apps for the above
  • Make movies
  • Write a novel
  • Manage your iTunes and photo library
  • Manage your money
  • Compute and file your taxes
  • Run Windows even better than a PC
  • And about a thousand other vital things we do with Macs.

If you hear someone say that this year’s iPhone OS emphasis means the death of Mac OS X or that Apple is giving up on the Mac OS X OS, just ignore them. Recently, Mr. Jobs was asked about unfounded rumors that Apple would convert Mac OS X 10.7 to an app store model in which Apple would have to approve apps. His one word answer was “Nope.” I am confident that the same answer applies to any crazy ideas about abandoning or deprecating Mac OS X.

All that you need to know is that Apple’s amazing marketing machine depends on self-inflicted frenzy and expectations. Getting developers wound up about the financial prospects of mobile computing for the next decade and growing the conference size and importance is crucial. Apple always hits the ground running at WWDC with the Thing that’s most important for the near term. Right now, that’s iPhone OS. 

Oh, and one more thing. Chances are, you’re reading this on a Mac.