WWDC is Changing Fast, but Traditions Also Carry On

In the past, WWDC was all about motivating developers, engaging them in new Mac technologies, and leaving code to the engineers. Now, with the rapid ascent of the iPhone, Apple is pouring on the coals to give the iPhone an insurmountable technical lead.

This is my 16th WWDC since 1993. During that time, I've only missed one. So I can't help noticing that some things have changed dramatically -- and some not so much, both good and bad.

First, it seems that every year, there are fewer and fewer women, by percent, attending WWDC. This year, with 5,200 attendees, I believe I have seen fewer than 50 women with attendee badges. That's about one percent. About half of the women I saw, like last year, are Asian. It could be slightly more than one percent, but if so, not much more. I note this because my wife is a professional Java, C++ and Perl programmer, so the subject of women in science and software engineering is always on my consciousness.  This is a tradition I'm not happy to see.

One thing that has changed is Apple's approach to Windows at WWDC. The company is well aware of the popularity of Macs and iPhones in the enterprise, and it makes sense to discuss technical solutions for interoperability. Customers and IT managers demand it. Also, I believe the that the popularity of products like Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion have contributed to increased need for Mac and PC interoperability (the interview with Neil Ticktin reinforces this idea). It's an encouraging trend.

Another shift in thinking is the content of the sessions. It used to be that code snippets were used sparingly to make a point or explain a nuance. Now, many more sessions consist of nothing but code on slide after slide.  At least in the sessions I have attended.  I take this as a further indication of the maturity of Apple under Steve Jobs and born of its financial success. The time for rah-rah and positioning and politics is over. Apple has put raw huge, computing power and awesome software tools in the hands of developers. It's time to get to work and out think, out code and outperform the competition.

As an aside, I also noticed that the Wi-Fi speed and availability is awesome. This is the first year in memory where one could go anywhere in Moscone West and have a very fast Wi-Fi connection. It's very important for developers who are out here for a week to connect with each other and with their mother ship. It's been simply amazing.

A developer, Adam Hitchcock, taught me a neat trick. Even though the sessions will be available to WWDC attendees as videos later, it's sometimes convenient to have written notes right away. Many developers have taken advantage of the very fast and pervasive Wi-Fi in the session rooms to use SubEthaEdit in a shared, group mode to simultaneously edit session notes. It's amazing to see your SubEthaEdit page being populated and even corrected by several people at once. It's magical.

Apple built a hyperwall on the second level to display, from what I have heard, a real time representation of the app store sales. In a 5 x 4 grid of 30-inch Cinema displays, Apple is showing 20,000 of the most popular iPhone apps and their icons. Whenever one is sold, there's a splash effect, and the hyperwall pulses with excitement (and money).  It's mesmerizing.

Apple hyperwall

Apple's Hyperwall at WWDC

This technology isn't new. The ability to drive a hyperwall of large displays like this was first developed by Apple with Power Mac G5s back in 2005. It takes several Mac Pros behind he scenes to drive the displays and software to tie it all together.

Apple hyperwall 2

The splash effect ripples out as each app is purchased.

Finally, WWDC wouldn't be complete without Dr. Dean Dauger, who founded Dauger Research, and his friends being seen in the halls of WWDC with juggling pins. Here's a photo. This is a WWDC tradition, started a long time ago, and always brings a smile to our faces. 

Dean Dauger

Dean Dauger, a physicist, is in tan shorts