WWDC: Brace Yourself for Change

WWDC is all about change. Dizzying change. If you’re attending WWDC next week, Apple will take you on a ride that reflects Apple’s ever aggressive, breathtaking technology development. So fasten your seat belt, hit the Mountain Dew and get ready for some jolts.

In 1998, Steve Jobs stood up and abruptly, boldly cancelled OpenDoc right before the bewildered eyes of several thousand developers. Previously, they had been told that OpenDoc was Apple’s salvation and answer to Windows. But that was the previous regime. Mr. Jobs had different, bold plans for the resurrection of Apple, namely simplifying the product line and the introduction of the iMac. Hardware sales, lots of hardware sales, would save the company — not OpenDoc. Even so, a few developers virtually rioted right there in front of Apple’s interim-CEO.

In 2002, Mr. Jobs opened WWDC with a dramatic funeral for Mac OS 9 that left the audience rolling on the floor laughing, but was also a strong wakeup call for developers: we’re moving on to Mac OS X. Sharply. The time to stop developing for Mac OS 9 was yesterday.

More recently, in 2007, Apple jolted developers by announcing that there would be no 64-bit Carbon framework. If developers were hoping that their development could linger on in Carbon and yet take advantage of Apple’s new 64-bit systems, they found themselves quickly mistaken. Again there were bits and pieces of bedlam.

Along the way, Apple survived and flourished.

This year, I expect Apple to respond aggressively to the competition in the smartphone market with iOS 5. While faster multi-core CPUs and better displays are coming for the iPhone and iPad, the real frontier right now is software. Apple needs to make it very clear to developers and the community of customers that Apple is the company we want making our smartphones. Everyone else is just an amateur. The impostors.

So as you take your seat next week for the keynote address, you’ll be thinking about many things. The atmosphere of energy and excitement, the announcements Mr. Jobs and his team of executives will make, and the prospects of Apple’s most serious movement to date into the cloud. But there’s one more thing…

I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all."
 - Joni Mitchell


Brace yourself.