WWDC 2010: Questions and…Answers?

WWDC 2010 was announced today. It will be held from June 7-11 in the same location as last year: Moscone West in San Francisco.

While this at last answers the question “When the heck is this year’s WWDC gonna happen?,” it raises several new questions for which there are as yet no definitive answers. Apple could easily clear up all the mysteries by offering the answers. Don’t bet on this. As usual, Apple remains tight-lipped. They’ll provide answers only when they are good and ready, if ever. In the meantime, we are left to speculate. 

In most years, the WWDC is announced months ahead of time. This year, Apple is giving us little more than a one month heads up. What took Apple so long? Why the delay?

I have no idea. Apparently, neither does any one else (outside of Apple). Perhaps there was some internal debate has to exactly how WWDC would be structured this year — and it took this long for the debate to be resolved (that is, for Steve to make up his mind).

The tag line for WWDC this year is “The Center of the App Universe.” This implies that the emphasis is on the iPhone. Is this true?

It’s true in spades. If you look at the list of sessions, almost every one is focused primarily on the iPhone OS — often just on the iPhone OS. Even in cases where a session applies to both Mac OS X and iPhone OS, the iPhone OS is emphasized. For example, the text describing “Applications Frameworks” sessions reads:

“Sessions covering the application frameworks provide in-depth information about exciting technologies for building innovative, optimized applications for Mac OS X and iPhone OS. You’ll find sessions about porting your iPhone application to iPad and how to present an engaging experience for your users, developing with Cocoa Touch, and using the technologies in iPhone OS 4 that provide your application with great new features and options like multitasking, Game Center, and iAd.”

Even more telling, the categories for this year’s Apple Design Awards “recognize” only iPhone OS applications.

If you attend WWDC primarily (or entirely) to learn about Mac OS X development, this is not your year.

So what does this mean about Mac OS X? Is Apple abandoning it?

Let’s not get carried away. Mac OS X is still around and looking quite healthy. And Macs continue to sell at a brisk pace. Macs and Mac OS X are not going anywhere. At least not for the foreseeable future.

What this does mean is that active development of new versions of Mac OS X are on a slow burner. Think about it. If the iPhone did not exist, would Apple have cancelled WWDC this year because they had nothing new to discuss? Of course not. They would have been pouring all of their resources into Mac OS X, and we would almost certainly be seeing a preview of Mac OS X 10.7 this year.

Instead, the focus in 2010 is on iPhone OS 4.0. Mac OS X 10.7 will likely arrive next year — and be a prime focus of WWDC 2011.

All of that said, I believe we can extrapolate that Apple sees the iPhone OS as its “bread and butter” right now. While Mac OS X is not going away, it will be taking a permanent back seat to the iPhone OS. Even next year, I expect Mac OS X 10.7 to at best share top billing with iPhone OS 5.0.

Some people have wondered whether Mac OS X 10.7 will mark the first step in Mac OS X’s evolution toward an iPhone-like OS — perhaps even introducing an “App Store” for Mac apps. Steve gave a one word answer to this recently: “Nope.”

What’s with the higher price for WWDC? It has gone up $300 from last year’s fee of $1295.

I assume this is just the law of supply-and-demand in action. Last’s year’s conference sold out in a matter of days. So why not raise the price?

Some have suggested that demand may be down this year because Mac OS X developers will be skipping the event. Perhaps. But I suspect that Apple will still have no trouble selling out this year’s conference, even at these prices.

I have read speculation that Apple may eventually hold two WWDCs, one for each OS. Personally, I doubt this will happen. The two OS versions are the same at their core, and interact with each other. For starters, you need a Mac to develop for the iPhone. It makes more sense to keep it all under one roof. I also don’t believe Apple wants to take the time and money to host two such big events.

Who will be speaking at the keynote for WWDC?

Apple has not announced this as yet. There is the presumption of course that it will be Steve Jobs. I assume this presumption is correct.

Of interest, it was announced today that Steve Jobs will be the opening night speaker at Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference, to be held the week before WWDC. Assuming Steve speaks at WWDC, I can’t recall when Steve has ever spoken at two such high profile events so close together. Still, I doubt this has any bearing on WWDC. It is common for Apple to delay the keynote details until sometime after the initial announcement of the WWDC. This year is no exception.

In any case, I am confident that Steve will not be making any new product announcements at the D conference. Such announcements will be saved for WWDC, whomever the keynote speaker may be — where it is certain that the new iPhone (yes, the one that made news last week in the “Gizmodo affair”) will be unveiled.