Microsoft, Apple open virtual dev conferences to all

It's going to be all virtual, all the time, for this year's Microsoft Build event and Apple's traditional WWDC. Blame the ongoing pandemic for the shift.

wwdc 2020

Microsoft and Apple have both opened their annual developer conferences to all and will not charge admission for the virtual events.

Microsoft will host its Build confab May 19-21 and Apple will start its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 22. Apple did not say how long WWDC will run, but historically the conference has gone from Monday to Friday. June 22 is the second-to-last Monday of the month.

Previously, the companies had announced the cancellations of their usual physical events and replacement by all-digital versions. Both firms cited the ongoing pandemic as the reasons for their moves.

"In light of global health concerns due to COVID-19 and related government actions in Washington State, we will deliver our annual Microsoft Build for developers as a digital experience, in lieu of an in-person event," Microsoft said in March.

Apple said something similar a few weeks later, blaming the "current health situation" without using either "COVID-19" or "coronavirus" in its statement.

Free Build

Build registration, which last year cost $2,395, will be free for 2020. "It's not the Build we thought it would be, but it's gonna be special," wrote Scott Hanselman, principal program manager, in an April 20 post to a company blog. The two-day conference will start Tuesday, May 19, at 8 a.m. PT/ 11 a.m. ET, with the keynote address preceded by a message from CEO Satya Nadella.

All sessions will be recorded for later on-demand viewing; those done live will be scheduled three times each 24-hour period - 8 hours apart - to account for the conference's global audience, and will include live Q&A. Longer, pre-recorded videos will also be available, Microsoft said.

Registration requires a Microsoft Account, or one associated with work or school; the latter is typically linked to an Office 365 subscription and/or a Windows log-in. To register, users should start here. The conference will be held on the Build website.

WWDC free for all devs

Apple's WWDC will also be free this year - at least "free for all developers" - rather than costing the $1,599 charged in 2019. Unlike past years, when a lottery system was needed to decide who got tickets, everyone will get in.

WWDC details were scarce, typical of an Apple announcement weeks before an event. "We look forward to sharing more details about WWDC20 with everyone as we get closer to this exciting event," said Phil Schiller, the company's head of marketing, in a May 5 statement.

It wasn't clear, for instance, whether the sessions would be available to all free of charge, or whether some might be limited to members of Apple's registered developer program who have paid $99 for an individual membership or $299 for an organization's membership. (For example, only registered developers are able to download the earliest private betas of iOS, macOS and other code Apple issues throughout the year.)

Apple will host the virtual WWDC on the conference's website and via the Apple Developer app on iOS, iPadOS and tvOS.

Other technology firms that had planned large conferences have cancelled their events altogether. Google called off its I/O conference, for example. "We sadly will not be holding I/O in any capacity this year," the company said.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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