Apple WWDC 2017 Quick Takes – Day 1

I’m a day behind writing my quick takes.  I’ve tried to stay on east-coast time, without a lot of luck.  It’s going to be quite the adjustment to my circadian clock when I return home, not to mention my midichlorians. The drowsiness will be strong with this one.

Conference Logistics

The conference was moved to San Jose this year.  Usually it’s over in SFO.  All presentations and sessions are in the San Jose Conference Center.  San Jose is just south of San Francisco.

In general, the conference is made up of presentations and labs.  Some of the presentations are keynotes and others are product updates.  The labs last the entire day.  You must enroll for each lab the day of the lab, starting at 7am.  However, as I found, they fill up insanely fast.

Each day you are provided pastries, fruit and coffee for “breakfast”, and a lunch consisting of a wrap (or salad or sandwich), some chips, drinks, fruit and a cookie or brownie.

Each night there are evening events, including food, music and even a movie.  There’s a large bash on the “last” day, which happens to be Thursday despite the conference running to Friday.

Attendance I believe was estimated at around 6,000 people.

Sunday

I flew in Sunday night because the opening session was 10:00am and it’s near impossible to fly East Coast to San Jose and get there in time for such an early session.  On the other hand, I left as late as possible Sunday so I effectively was in my hotel around 2am (my local body time) when I hit the sack.

I found out very late that I was attending this conference so hotels were pretty much booked.  I’m staying out near the San Jose airport – which is fine because my flight out on Friday is like 5am or something.  What did work out well is that I’m north of San Jose so driving to the conference I’m driving against traffic (i.e. no traffic) as most people in the morning are heading into SFO.  Same goes for the evening drive back to the hotel.

Thus far I’ve found a lot of great Asian food near the hotel (thanks Yelp!).

Registration is Sunday all day, which is important as you will read later.  Having arrived so late, I was unable to register until Monday.

Monday – Day 1

Monday was about calculating how early I needed to leave the room to get to the conference two hours before the 10am main session with Tim Cook.  It was a 22-minute drive from the hotel so I left around 7:30am for the Convention Center.

Once I got there around 8am I did find parking at the Convention Center ($20/day!).  I walked down and found a very long line into the WWDC already in place.  I then was told that I had to get into yet another comparably long line first to register.

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Line to get into WWDC
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Similarly Long Line to Registration

The good news is that the weather was nice and so waiting in line was not so bad.  Also, make sure you use the restroom before getting in line.  I did not and thus I had a grimace on my face the whole time.

My main worry is that I would not get in.  I later would find out that everyone basically gets in.  If you want to sit near the front and look Tim Cook in the face, you’re going to have to a) register on Sunday and b) arrive very very early Monday and wait.  But if you’re okay being farther back (and there are plenty of large displays with closeups of the stage), then you can arrive around 9:15am.  Still, registering Sunday is probably a good idea – you will cut your line waiting in half.

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More waiting for registration…
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The goal!  Registration!

Registering provided me with a wrist band that the attendant said “do not remove it”, a nice black denim jacket and some WWDC pins.

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My Official WWDC17 Denim jacket!
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My “Permanent” Wrist Band
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WWDC 2017 Pins

Once registered, I went back into the original line, but by this time the front door had opened and a lot of people had been allowed in.  The entrance to the center had drug (bomb?) sniffing dogs and a modicum of security.  They scanned my bag quickly and I didn’t have to go through a metal detector.

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Old Scratch and Sniff, sadly addicted to opiates..

By the way, the makeup of the crowd was interesting –

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The Crowd

Which I described as:

Makeup Tweet

Anyway, I made it past security and was put into a very long line, just inside.  It literally took another 40 minutes to be allowed to enter the main room.

Here’s the nice thing.  Since it was just me, I was able to wander up near the front where staffers with blue signs were pointing out single seats.  So despite arriving very late, I was able to get a decent seat.

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My View – not Bad!
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The Staffer with the Green “Seat Available” Sign

Opening Keynote

Cook’s keynote was as expected – lots of excitement and shouting as he entered the room. He speaks very well and really commands the crowd.  In his keynote, he said that there were 6 major announcements today.  I know that most in the crowd expected number 6 to be a new iPhone.

So we patiently waited as he described some top-to-bottom rewrites of major tools (Xcode), iOS 11 with a bunch of neat features, the new Max OS called High Sierra (followed by a giggle in the room) , new iMacs (including a crazy-powerful, dark grey machine with like 3.2 jiggawatts of something or rather), a new iPad Pro that sits between the large and small one, some amazing drag-and-drop that’s part of iOS 11 for iPad Pros and finally number 6, which was a new…

Home Pod?

There was a thud when he announced this, followed by murmurs that sounded like “how about the iPhone 8?” repeatedly whispered.

Home Pod is basically an Alexa, but for Apple.  On the plus side, it seems to have some kickass speaker technology that blows the doors off Alexa and Google Home.  It includes a Siri interface and can act in place of Apple TV for Apple Home Kit integration.  But it’s not a new iPhone and so a bit of excitement left the room at that point.

Platforms State of the Union

Once the opening session completed, there was a bit of a break, and then the second session which was the Platforms State of the Union.  This took us through all the various platforms, including ARKit, MusicKit, UIKit, Swift, Xcode and all the core technologies.   This session lasted until about 4pm, followed by “hands on” time in various labs on the new devices and software and then an evening event (food and drinks in San Pedro square).

Bottom Line

An interestingly slow start to the conference.  Yes, some neat things were announced, but it looks like for the June Apple announcements, it’s all about shoring up their technologies. They took major tools like Xcode and rewrote them from the bottom up.  They introduced the latest in Apple’s open-source programming language Swift 4.0.

You can look up all the products and updates announced, I won’t include those here.

If this wasn’t Apple, I think I would have totally amazed.  As it was, I was impressed, but like others wasn’t sure why I felt let down.  I think after years of shocking us with new technology, this one was about streamlining and improving performance.  Frankly, it may actually be a good thing.  Running at 100mph can produce shocking innovations, but if you never take the time to go back and fill in the missing pieces, you’ll end up with flashy-unstable-garbage.

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