Apple joins Microsoft with free virtual developer conferences in 2021, June 7 – 11

Kareem Anderson

Apple Wwdc 2021 Cropped

Earlier today, Apple announced that its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is turning into a free digital event, similar in nature to Microsoft’s recently announced Ignite conferences.

While the world is attempting to recover from a nearly year-long pandemic, businesses, employees, conferences, and travel are navigating the rise and fall of COVID infection rates as they seek a return to normalcy. With that being said, tech developer conferences that were scheduled to take place last Spring were suspended due to the global outbreak of COVID-19 and it seems despite vaccinations underway, Apple and Microsoft will opt to conduct their developer conferences virtually again this year.

According to Apple’s Newsroom blog,

It will host its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) June 7 through 11, in an all-online format. Free for all developers, WWDC21 will offer unique insight into the future of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Building on the record-breaking participation and learnings from last year’s online conference, WWDC21 is an opportunity for developers to learn about the new technologies, tools, and frameworks they rely on to build innovative and platform-differentiating apps and games.

The rest of the announcement reads like a typical promotional piece for the event touting the more than “28 million developers” on the company’s various platforms as well as highlighting the format which will include a traditional keynote followed by online sessions, and 1:1 labs offering technical guidance. Last year, Apple held its WWDC conference virtually as well and was arguably well accepted by both fans and developers-alike for its short and concise nature.

Apple's Wwdc 2020 Hero Image

Perhaps, more interesting than the conference itself is Apple’s mention of its new initiative to support the local economy with a commitment of $1 million to SJ Aspires, an education, and equality put forth by the City of San Jose. Normally, investments such as the SJ Aspires donation come as companies physically lease spaces around an event to support their own event, and despite WWDC 2021 being a virtual event this year, it’s nice to see Apple tossing some change into the community anyway. The SJ Aspire investment is also part of Apple’s larger $100 million Racial Equity and Justice Initiative.

Apple is also hosting a Swift Student Challenge this year that offers young developers a chance to demonstrate their coding skills in creating code for Swift playgrounds, submissions are open now and will run until April 18, 2021.

While we still don’t have an official date for Microsoft’s developers’ BUILD conference, the company has already committed to hosting both enterprise and consumer developer-level conferences virtually with its Xbox and Ignite showcases. Since last summer, Microsoft has hosted a handful of Xbox conferences virtually and began doing the same with its enterprise cloud conference Ignite in late 2020 as well as early 2021. Leaked roadmaps detail a possible BUILD schedule for May 25-27 just two weeks before Apple’s officially announced June event.

Interestingly enough, Google has remained silent on a possible developer conference this year. Instead, developers are left with messaging from last year as a reference as to how Google will proceed in 2021, opting to not even host one virtually but instead, has begun seeding its flagship Android 12 betas to devices already. When asked about another possible platform to host I/O-related announcements, Google all but nixes the idea for 2021.

Right now, the most important thing all of us can do is focus our attention on helping people with the new challenges we all face. Please know that we remain committed to finding other ways to share platform updates with you through our developer blogs and community forums.