Why WWDC 2010 doesn't add up for me

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(Editor’s Note: Rob Griffiths recently left Macworld to join a small Mac software company. This story reflects some of his experiences as a Mac developer.)

As a new member of a very small software development company, I was really looking forward to this year’s WWDC. The only problem was that the dates for the event were, until very recently, unknown. That impacts travel planning, of course, which wouldn’t be much of a problem if it were just me—travel from Oregon to California is quite simple and inexpensive.

But my business partner Peter Maurer—the guy who writes all our code—lives in Germany. Obviously, it’s more complicated and expensive to get to California from Germany. As the days passed, we both knew that the cost of his trip was potentially increasing (airfare is generally cheaper the further out you can book it). So we were quite excited when Apple did, finally, announce the dates for WWDC. We then began to make plans to attend, trying to figure out flights and hotels.

But as we continued to read about WWDC 2010, we both became convinced that it was probably not the best use of our funds. First, from my perspective, while I get a good high-level overview of OS X from the event, there’s nothing that directly helps me in my day-to-day job of running the business side of the company. The cost of my WWDC ticket—at $1595, it’s up $300 over last year’s ticket—seemed like an easy way to save some money.

So our inital plan was that Peter would make a stop here in Portland, where I live, before going on to WWDC. This still wouldn’t be cheap, though: $1595 for WWDC, another $1200 or so in airfare, and then food and assorted activities for the week. Even with Peter staying at a friend’s house, it would be $3000—which for us is a significant expense—for him to attend the event.

That’s when we both decided to take a much closer look at the WWDC sessions, to see exactly what Peter might get out of the conference. After going through each track, the short answer was, not much. In total, he found about 10 interesting-sounding sessions.

While there are many sessions targeting gaming, audio and video, touch, and iPhone and iPad development, there are precious few related to Mac OS X itself. As primarily a maker of Mac utility apps, those other areas don’t really add much value to our future product development; it’s the core Mac OS we need to understand. But even in the Core OS track, the focus was outside the Core OS: networking and iPhone-related topics dominate that track.

Whether to send Peter or not boiled down to a simple economics question: Would it be worth spending the money for Peter to sit through six or seven hours’ worth of education, and to network with other developers?

In the end, we decided it wasn’t. Instead, we’ll fly Peter to visit me in Portland for maybe a quarter of the cost, and we’ll work together in person for a couple of weeks. We may even get together with some of the other Portland-based Mac companies (Smile on my Mac, You Software, Panic) for some networking. While we won’t have cool notebook cases or a keynote to attend, we will have more time for work, more money saved in the company’s bank account, and more progress on our future apps.

Assuming that WWDC 2011 is more focused on Mac OS X—I’d imagine 10.7 will get a lot of coverage—then we’ll be there. But for this year, at least, we’re taking a pass on buying our WWDC passes.

[Macworld Senior Contributor Rob Griffiths is Master of Ceremonies at Many Tricks. Previously he was a Macworld Senior Editor and Editor of Mac OS X Hints.]

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