I’m currently on the plane on my way back from my fourth consecutive trip to Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference. I have so many things I want to do. I want to code. I want to watch videos of sessions I couldn’t go to, and in some cases ones I did. I want to read the book on Swift. So many things to do.
The past WWDC was quite different than the others. In past years, Apple got on stage and showed the world new versions of iOS and OS X. These keynotes were predominantly to showcase user-facing features. Things such as Notification Center, or tabbed Finder windows. Not discussed during the keynote, generally speaking, the improvements to Apple’s developer tools, such as Xcode. That time came after the world stopped listening.
This year, things were different. Things progressed as usual… until the section of the keynote dedicated to developers. This portion of the keynote was a whole different beast. In just a few slides Apple made some incredible announcements, not the least of which a whole new programming language for their platform.
It was immediately clear: things are different now.
This shift began a couple weeks before, when the official WWDC app was released. As always, there were a series of sessions that were going to be kept secret until after the keynote. In prior years, these sessions took on the incredibly uninventive name of "To Be Announced" until after the keynote. Not this year. Apple took liberties with the session names for WWDC 2014.
During the keynote, presenters were really confident. The pacing was relaxed, until the developer section. Jokes were made, and surprisingly, most were pretty funny.
This tone wasn’t limited to Tim and Craig, however. Presenters at the sessions carried the same confidence — I’d almost go so far as to say swagger — with them. The Apple engineers I spoke to privately didn’t verbally share any hints of what’s to come, but their body language spoke volumes. They’re excited.
As the week progressed, something else quickly became clear.
Apple’s tone — or perhaps their spirit — was more than just confidence. It was also about cooperation. The spirit of WWDC 2014 was about doing things together.
So many of the features Apple released were about fixing problems that face all developers in their platform, of all sizes. Improvements in iOS 8 and OS X aren’t about giving gifts to the huge corporations. Smaller developers also reap the benefits of all of the same new features and tools.
Leading into WWDC 2014, the relationship between Apple and the developers that rely on their ecosystem was extremely adversarial. More than that, it was untenable.
This week, as developers learned more and more about the new tools Apple is providing, and about the new territories they can explore, things took a turn. What just one week ago was “us versus them” is now “you and us, together.”
Apple is a strange bedfellow, but the bed has never looked more inviting.