Apple's developers conference opens Monday
Jun 08, 2012 (San Jose Mercury News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The blistering pace of ticket sales for Apple's (AAPL) Worldwide Developers Conference starting Monday in San Francisco says it all: 5,000 passes at $1,599 each were scooped up in under 120 minutes in April, beating out last year's sellout record by 10 hours.
It's hardly surprising. With the mind-numbing success of Apple products like the iPhone and iPad, and an explosion of mobile apps rewiring the way we live our lives, the annual event has become a true nexus of the sprawling ecosystem created by the Cupertino-based tech giant and its army of code-slinging partners.
Beyond rumored software improvements and upgraded lines of the Mac Pro desktop tower, this year's show comes laced with a healthy dose of corporate drama. After the October death of Apple co-founder and perennial emcee Steve Jobs, CEO Tim Cook is widely expected to deliver the kickoff keynote speech Monday morning. And pundits say it's Cook's big chance -- and challenge -- to pump up Apple's message to its fans like his predecessor used to do so well.
"You'll have the best people from Apple and the best developers from around the world all together in one place for a whole week," said analyst Trip Chowdhry with Global Equities Research. "The focus here is
making developers successful, because if they're successful, so is Apple."
For five days, Moscone West will be turned into a veritable shrine to the creative cult behind Apple's iOS and OS X platforms. Designed primarily to show off new software and technologies, the event treats developers to a smorgasbord of code-hacking labs to help them refine their magic, taking back home the lessons they learned to create beautiful new apps to further enrich the end-user's experience -- and bottom lines of Apple and its developers.
And in a move that seemingly telegraphs the youthful complexion of the ongoing tech renaissance, Apple has lowered the developer age requirement from 18 to 13 this year.
Analyst Brian Marshall with Gleacher & Company says the event may not be as important for the company as the launch of a new iPhone or iPad, but is "still crucial because it's where developers come in for a big rah-rah session and get all fired up about partnering with Apple."
Brad O'Hearne, founder and lead developer of Big Hill Software outside of Phoenix, says when he attended his first show in 2008 he expected simply a "networking event with maybe a few nuggets of tech information.
"But I was completely blown away by the conference," he said. "It was immediately clear to me that if I wanted to be serious about this work and my company, we needed to be there every June from then on."
Like many of his colleagues, O'Hearne has since turned his annual pilgrimage to San Francisco into a fine science.
"I carefully plan my week in advance, and over the past month I've been compiling a list of tech issues that Apple engineers can help me with," he said. "It's your one time of the year to get one-on-one help with Apple's best people, so I probably spend two and a half full days in these hands-on labs. It's intense at times, but I attend the keynote, and then I go to work."
Thanks to Apple's infamous secrecy, many of the show's product announcements are kept under wraps. While Apple has used recent conferences to unveil and distribute samples of upcoming versions of the company's operating software, news has been known to break out. At Jobs' final major public appearance at last year's show, for instance, he introduced iCloud, Apple's cloud-storage service that has helped supercharge the success of its linked-gadgets business model.
This year, Apple is also expected to present a glimpse of iOS 6, the next iteration of its mobile platform; a line of souped-up and potentially much thinner MacBook Pros; and possibly a peek at some new Apple TV software.
There's widespread belief that the company will also tell the world it's dumping Google (GOOG) Maps in iOS 6 in favor of its own mapping tool, a clear shot across the bow at archrival Google, which hosts its own developers conference in San Francisco in two weeks.
Regardless of which rumors pan out, author and Cult of Mac blog-site Publisher Leander Kahney says the developers conference is ultimately about much more than software tweaks, thinner laptops and booze-filled networking parties at the end of each day. He says the event plays a key role "in the increasingly huge ecosystem that's grown up around Apple's products.
"It used to be a sort of small-town-rodeo kind of show," Kahney said. "But it's now the hottest ticket in town for any programmer. With things like Instagram selling for a billion dollars, we're seeing a new gold rush for startups and entrepreneurs. And this week a lot of these folks will be descending on San Francisco."
Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689 or follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc
Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference
When: Monday through Friday
Where: Moscone West in San Francisco
How much: Tickets were $1,599, but all 5,000 sold out in under two hours.
What's rumored: A new version of iOS; Google Maps will be replaced by Apple's own mapping technology on the operating system; upgrades to the Mac Pro desktop and MacBook Pro laptop product lines; integration of Facebook into iOS, just as Apple did with Twitter in 2011; possible announcement of new Apple TV software.
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