Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference goes online-only due to coronavirus

Chris Velazco
Senior Editor, Mobile
Apple

Nearly every major tech event this year to date has been cancelled or dramatically revamped over coronavirus concerns, and Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference is no exception. The company has just announced that WWDC-- typically held at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in California -- will be a purely online event when it takes place sometime this June.

"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," said Phil Schiller, Apple's SVP of worldwide marketing in a post on the company's website. "We will be sharing all of the details in the weeks ahead."

The news comes as no surprise, considering the tightening cadence of bad news recently. After the World Health Organization officially declared the widespread novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on Wednesday, the California Department of Public Health recommended that "large public gatherings that include 250 people or more" be postponed or cancelled, making a show like WWDC nearly impossible to justify. (For reference, WWDC attendance in recent years has hovered around 6,000.) And Apple isn't the only company facing the prospect of revamping a splashy developer event; Google has previously said that the largely outdoor I/O conference would not have an in-person component this year, and Microsoft announced that Build would go online-only yesterday, after Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued a similar ban on large-scale events.

We've reached out to Apple for more information on how this announcement affects its plans for the show, and we'll update this story if and when they respond. For now, though, it seems likely that all of the usual announcements will take place -- in other words, expect in-depth updates on the latest versions of iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, macOS and more. What's less clear is whether Apple will use WWDC, as it sometimes does, to reveal new, high-profile hardware.

The company publicly acknowledged the impact of production delays and anxiety in China last month when it warned Wall Street that it would miss its second-quarter revenue guidance. (The situation in China does appear to be improving, though; all 42 Apple Stores the company closed there in January have now re-opened.) More recent reports, however, suggest that Apple has had to postpone an iPhone launch event entirely because of slow production and concerns over gathering hundreds of journalists and partners in one place to show off the new device. If true, WWDC is the next big show on Apple's docket -- maybe the so-called iPhone 9 will make its first official appearance in a keynote livestream.