A few weeks ago Apple held a WWDC ticket lottery for registered developers to apply to attend a special in-person event. As a member of the program, I was able to apply to attend. However, I never imagined that I’d actually get picked. But alas luck was on my side and I was picked to attend.
Apple was very careful to ensure that WWDC ran as smoothly as possible and without incident (a lot more on that later). That extended to the attendance requirements before the event. All attendees were understandably required to submit a negative COVID-19 test on either the day prior or the day of the event. I opted for the former. As a UK citizen, I wasn’t clear as to if the lateral flow tests available in my country would be sufficient so I elected to purchase a test in the USA. In addition to this, Apple also required attendees to present government-issued photo IDs and add a digital pass to their Apple wallets. Each of these requirements would need to be met before entry would be granted.
Finally, due to an increase in COVID cases in the USA and to comply with local regulations, Apple required attendees to wear a mask while indoors. Again all reasonable and I can understand the cautious approach given that this was Apple’s first in-person event since the end of 2019.
Apple provided a full itinerary for WWDC ahead of time and it was packed to the gills. It included a viewing of the keynote live amongst other developers and Apple engineers in addition to the State of the Union address.
As you can see it was decked out with tours of Apple Park, a meet and greet with various Apple teams, breakfast and lunch and a whole lot more. There was also an open-house tour provided ahead of the event of Apple’s new developer centre. This brings me on nicely to…
On the morning of WWDC, I turned up at the Apple Park visitor centre to collect my developer badge. I was also invited to take a tour of the developer centre. The organisation of proceedings was surgically precise. Apple required attendees to submit to a bag inspection and walk through metal detectors. It felt reassuring to know that safety was being put at the forefront.
Once I passed security, I was treated to a visit to what I can only describe as Valhalla for developers. The new developer centre is a beautiful, functional, inspirational place that will facilitate rich conversations and relations between Apple and the developer community. Here are a few shots with commentary from the tour (note that all shots in this blog are from an iPhone 13 Pro Max. Apple did not permit the use of professional photography equipment, save for the media).
Each room is named after versions of macOS, further evidence of Apple’s commitment to the Mac and its confidence in the platform.
Welcome to the Big Sur theatre
The final stop in my tour of the developer centre was the aptly named Big Sur Theatre. It’s an impressive yet much smaller space than its big brother, the Steve Jobs Theatre. But at the same a beautiful, functional space that would be ideal for a group of app developers. It boasts very impressive technology including a display with 1000 nites of brightness, P3 wide colour and over 16.5 million pixels. Apple themselves said it best:
Apple also showed off the various ways in which the display could be used. It’s a highly functional, flexible display that is capable of displaying multiple live streams. The ultra-high pixel density also ensures that even fine text looked ultra-sharp.
Apple also gave us a glimpse into the state-of-the-art video equipment and sound stage equipment in use inside the theatre. For example, 8K broadcast quality cameras in both fixed and rigged positions. The rig is on a circular rail and can be positioned in any direction around the circumference of the theatre. And when paired with state-of-the-art lighting, the theatre can create impressive visual effects in tandem with the display.
Wrapping up the tour
Concluding the tour, Apple offered to take our photographs and presented us with some lovely WWDC 22 swag. It included pins, a Swift tote bag, a stainless steel water bottle, some factor 30 sunscreen (you’ll understand why later), some Apple-designed face masks and a Swift/WWDC-themed baseball cap.
The Main Event
After my tour of the developer centre was complete, Apple employees guided me and my tour group across the road to the Tantau avenue reception. This small outbuilding serves as both an information area and a security checkpoint. Employees in brightly coloured shirts eagerly greeted me at the gate with an NFC reader in hand. The reader scanned the WWDC developer pass that was handed to me during the registration process at the developer centre. As an aside, this entrance was the one I used most frequently as an employee so I knew it well.
Once I was granted entry to the campus grounds, I was met with rounds of applause from yet more brightly coloured shirts, ushering me along the desired outdoor path towards a second security checkpoint. This was perhaps somewhat redundant in my case as I had been through the process already immediately before the tour. But of course, that would not have been the case for everyone. I repeated the process of submitting to a bag search and removing electronics and was swiftly on my way once more.
Apple had stationed an employee about every thirty feet or so to make it clear as to the direction in which you should proceed. Eventually, I was guided into the main building at the entrance way nearest to Café Macs. Apple didn’t want anybody trying to go to places they shouldn’t be. That’s understandable as many of the corridors in Apple Park lead to office spaces containing highly sensitive trade secrets, prototypes and more. It would be very difficult for Apple to rule out the possibility that an attendee was also an employee of a competitor. Anybody can join the developer program after all. It’s no surprise that Apple would want to keep things locked down as much as possible.
Having made it to Café Macs, I was surprised and in awe of the scale of the event. Although numbers were limited, there must have been around 1500 people present at least. But before I could take everything in, I was offered a range of complimentary (and delicious) breakfast offerings. You could simply take whatever you wanted. From smoked salmon bagels to pastries, fresh fruit, granola and more, Apple made it very clear that you could enjoy as much as you wanted. No expense was spared and I felt very welcome. You could even grab whatever drink you wanted from the refrigerators including canned and bottled soft drinks. No charge.
I then explored my old stomping ground a little and observed that Apple had installed many hundreds of chairs both inside Café Macs and outside. The chairs were the same beautifully designed chairs by former Chief Design Officer Jony Ive. And under the shaded cover of Café Macs, Apple has installed a large video wall. Much bigger than those found in the retail stores and with a state-of-the-art sound system. The event logo adorned the video wall. Some eager participants had already taken up seats to get a good view including various members of the press and famous YouTubers. All the while surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the dining tables inside the eatery.
For this event, Apple had opened up the large and very impressive external doors of Café Macs. More of Jony’s chairs adorned the outdoor patio area in seating blocks positioned in front of a second, even more, impressive video wall.
As an attendee on a developer pass, I had the privilege of being seated pretty close to the front of the outdoor video wall. Instead of more chairs, people seated in this area were provided with very expensive-looking, hammock-style deck chairs. It felt surreal to have prime viewing real estate when folks from the media and press were relegated to the back. But I appreciate that Apple gave developers priority. It showed that Apple was shining a spotlight on the development community. Any considering WWDC is a developer conference. It wouldn’t have been a good look to see powerful tech YouTubers taking centre stage when the event was supposed to be a celebration of the developer community.
Once everyone was suitably fed and watered, we were asked to take our seats ready for the keynote to begin at 10 am. I was delighted that Tim and Craig were present and wished us all a ‘Good Morning’ as Apple event history would dictate. But this time in person. You wouldn’t have seen that during the live stream and it felt surreal to see the two executives in person.
A few moments after an executive introduction, the keynote live stream began and it felt great to be sitting quite literally next to the people that made the products being announced. I was seated next to three of Apple’s top engineering talents and surrounded by fellow developers. But boy was it hot that morning. It’s no wonder Apple chose to include sunscreen in the swag bag (but that didn’t stop me from getting burnt! My fault though 🙈).
Following the keynote, we were invited back to this same seating area to watch the state of the union address. I won’t include further images from this as it would largely replicate the occurrences of the keynote. However, between the keynote and after the state of the union, there was still plenty to take in. I opted out of lunch, wanting to spend the time to take in more of Apple Park. It was really fun, nostalgic and somewhat melancholy to be back as a former employee and now developer. And given that these events occur extremely rarely and on a lottery system, who knows if I’ll ever get to go back! It was just incredible to be there in person. Below are a few more of the several hundred photos I took at Apple Park to commemorate the experience.
Those in attendance from the press were invited to a special tour of the Steve Jobs theatre to see the new MacBook Air. Press and media attendees had a purple badge to clearly distinguish them from attendees on developer passes. I almost inadvertently found myself on this tour having taken a wrong turn after lunch. When I found myself standing literally right next to the likes of Karl Konrad, Nilay Patel, Sam from iUpdate and Chris from Dailytekk I realised I might be in the wrong place and turned back.
I’d like to end this blog by thanking Apple for inviting me to WWDC. It really felt like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And for ensuring attendees felt safe, and well looked after and for the generous hospitality. I’d also like to thank you for reading and sharing in my experience. I look forward to talking more about Apple’s announcements in future posts but for now, I’m glad to have been able to take you on the journey with me.