Apple VP Ron Okamoto on Worldwide Developer Conference

Apple Computer Inc. is preparing for the company's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) being held in San Francisco this coming June. While company officials declined to comment on exactly what developers will see at this year's conference, recent shows have seen the introduction of Mac OS X Jaguar, Mac OS X Panther, the iSight camera, Xcode developer tools, and most notably last year, the Power Mac G5. Analysts feel WWDC 2004 presents a unique opportunity for Apple in the Mac and Windows developer communities.

Apple Vice President of Worldwide Developer Relations Ron Okamoto told MacCentral in a recent interview that this year's developer conference would have a few changes from previous years. At WWDC 2004, more emphasis will be placed on three areas of development that haven't had a strong presence at previous conferences: Enterprise IT, Science and QuickTime Development.

Apple held Enterprise sessions last year, but in feedback given from attendees, Okamoto said they were looking for more content, deeper content and more hands-on labs -- this year the company will deliver. Apple will also hold more formal sessions in the sciences -- last year Apple talked to these developers, but it was on a more informal basis to gauge interest.

Until last year, QuickTime developers had their own conference held in Los Angeles, but Apple canceled that show and rolled the sessions into an expanded WWDC. Okamoto said more is being done this year to attract QuickTime developers to make sure they have all of the information they need to continue developing for the platform.

The changing face of Apple developers

The last few years have seen a complete operating system transition for Apple, which meant its developers had to change the code of their applications to stay up with current technologies. The updated Unix-based operating system also saw a whole new crop of developers interested in coding applications for the Mac OS.

"What was interesting for us is that more and more of our developers have been coding on the Mac for five years or less -- this is really great because they know us for the OS X platform, not for what we did before," said Okamoto.

Okamoto also noted the diversity of developers coding for the Macintosh. More developers now are from the Enterprise IT, Sciences, QuickTime, Java, Unix, open source and cross-platform developers that support both Mac and Windows.

"It's becoming a very rich and diverse set of developers that show up for the conference," said Okamoto. "We think that speaks really well for their validation of the technology foundation that we built OS X on as a platform in general."

Analysts see WWDC as a way for Apple to take advantage of some setbacks suffered by Microsoft Corp. in recent months as they delayed the next generation of their developer tools.

"This year's developer conference presents a number of unique opportunities for Apple," Jupiter Research Senior Analyst, Joe Wilcox, told MacCentral. "Microsoft's product roadmap is uncertain and planned 2004 deliverables are delayed until next year. I see this year's WWDC as an opportunity to give motivated developers tools and a fresh operating system around which to build exciting, innovative new applications. Apple has a tremendous opportunity to exploit the official delay of Microsoft's next-generation developer tools and, presumably, major Windows upgrade."

With all of the new developers supporting Apple in recent years, Okamoto said that the company's long-time developers are still as strong as ever.

"Frankly, Our long-time Mac developers had the hardest job of anybody in the OS transition. They were taking OS 9 code and going through the framework and building it on top of OS X. Now they are on their second or third generation of products and many are supporting OS X only -- that is a good thing."

Student turnout has also remained strong over the years -- in fact, student participation has gradually increased. Apple holds special events every year, like code challenges and meetings on Apple's campus with executives to keep students inspired and excited to code for the Macintosh, according to Okamoto.

"Student developers and Macs are a natural fit," said Wilcox. "Academia is a market where Macs and Unix have had longstanding appeal. Bringing the two together increases the appeal and exposes younger developers to a broader set of tools. The same Unix computer on which they develop applications also easily plays music or movies."

The next step in Application development

Now that many developers have dropped support for Mac OS 9 in their development cycle, Apple sees developers taking the next step in application development: taking advantage of the built-in Mac OS technologies, like Quartz and Rendezvous.

Another area that Apple has been focusing resources on has been the development of Xcode, a set of developer tools released during WWDC 2003. Xcode combines a Unix-based development environment, a simplified user interface and performance technologies including Fix and Continue, Zero Link and Distributed Build.

Xcode delivers performance improvements that are five times faster than Apple's previous generation developer tools, delivering significantly faster turnaround times for developers creating applications for Mac OS X.

"If you look at what we did with Xcode, we were sending a loud and clear message out to the developer community -- tools is an area that we didn't want to just do okay in, we wanted to do great in," said Okamoto.

Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference takes place in San Francisco, CA from June 28 - July 2, 2004.

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