WWDC (World Wide Developers' Conference) is Apple's annual developer conference. For many years it had been held in San Jose, towards the beginning of May, but in 2003 it moved to the plusher and larger Moscone conference centre in San Francisco and was pushed back several weeks. This year (2004) it ran from June 26 to July 2. Although it is a conference for developers it has increasingly become of interest to consumers with the announcement of the Power Mac G5 and iSight at WWDC 2003, and rumor has it that the new iMacs were supposed to be unveiled this year. As it is, they will not be available until next september and we will have to make do with the gorgeous new screens that were announced.

Once Steve's glossy keynote is over, the conference starts in earnest. This year there were 198 90 minute sessions, divided into 8 tracks:

One could crudely split the more technical sessions into 2: some are designed to help developers adopt existing technology (although these are usually forward looking, in that they will also discuss changes available in the upcoming release of the operating system) and others are an introduction to features new to the next version of OS X, this year there were sessions on subjects such as widget design and Spotlight (these are the sessions marked "TBA" on the conference schedule). Sessions usually end with a Q&A. Most people won't be interested in all the topics covered, but there are usually 10 ongoing sessions and I often found that I was interested in at least 2 at any given time. Sample code for the presentations as well as the slides used are available for download after the conference so there is no need to take notes frantically. In the past all sessions have been videoed and attendees have received the resulting (large) set of DVDs, but this year I noticed that not all rooms had cameras in them.

Although these sessions are very interesting, there is much more to WWDC. The day before the conference there are a number of workshops one can attend. I signed up for an all day introduction to Cocoa one, which quite literally opened my eyes. These pre-conference workshops are often a little less polished than the conference sessions, but they are also less formal. A number of "Hands-On" labs run throughout the conference where one can talk to and receive advice from Apple engineers or test ones products against a wide range of configurations. There are a certain number of feedback forums on the major areas of development. And of course there are lots of interesting people to have a chat with, from fellow attendees to Apple engineers


At a conference like this, no one is capable of surviving without email or internet for more than a few hours at a time so wireless networking is available throughout the conference centre (although it is switched off during Steve's keynote). There are also wired connections available in a variety of locations, as well as plenty of places to plug in your laptop and a place where you could drop off your batteries and get them charged for free. Unfortunately the wireless networking was a little flaky at times, although the ethernet connections were great (this was all connected via an OC-3 line).

Also available is a gaming area, with 20 Power Mac G5s with 23-inch LCD screens loaded up with some of the newest games. If you need a break there are large amounts of donuts, snacks, fruit, smoothies and of course coffee available throughout the conference centre. Apple also provides breakfast and a pretty decent lunch. An exhibit fair also runs for the first few days of the conference with the ever handy Dev Depot if you need to buy anything (I had to rush there to get an external firewire drive to install Tiger onto).

No conference would be complete without a few freebies. There is usually a bag of some sort, this year it was a pretty decent backpack, with (of course) a padded section to fit a laptop into. There are also a number of t-shirts and preview copies of the latest version of OS X. Last year's attendees got lucky and were given iSights (which had been announced at the keynote), but this year we had to make do with copies of Apple Remote Desktop and XSan. If you attended the session on Shark, then you might have managed to grab one of the inflatable sharks (I love mine!).

There are a variety of evening events too. These include the Apple Design Awards, the ever popular Stump the Experts (a mac based trivia game pitting the audience against a team of Apple engineers), the birds of a feather community sponsored discussions and of course the annual Apple campus bash. As you might guess this takes place at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino. There is food and drink available in generous quantities, a band (Jimmy eat World this year) and generally there's a lot of fun to be had. Once you've had too many beers you can go to the campus Apple Store and take advantage of some of the special offers (or in some cases let them take advantage of you). It's also a great time to make some friends.

This year was my first WWDC and I have to say it was worth every single penny. I got to see some cool technology, finally realized that Carbon had been making me live a life of pain, met some great people and generally had a great time. If you're into mac development I cannot recommend it highly enough.