- WWDC 2020, scheduled for June 3-7 in San Jose, California, might be canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
- Apple has yet to confirm anything, but Santa Clara County officials have banned gatherings of people for the next three weeks.
- Apple is still expected to unveil iOS 14 as well as other software updates at WWDC in June, regardless of what happens with the outbreak.
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It’s coronavirus season everywhere right now except for the place where it all started. The latest stats show 116,000 COVID-19 cases worldwide, and more than 4,000 fatalities, after more than two months since the first case. China is reporting fewer and fewer COVID-19 cases each day, while several hot zones add hundreds to thousands of new cases each day.
While things aren’t as bad everywhere as they are in Italy — a country that’s now in lockdown because of the virus — plenty of countries are bracing for local epidemics and trying to contain it as much as they can. Authorities in some regions have already banned events and huge gatherings of people and paused sporting events. The biggest mobile event of the year was canceled a few weeks ago, even before the Italy outbreak started, and Japan might end up canceling the Summer Olympics in Tokyo soon. That brings us to Apple’s main event of the first half of the year, the WWDC 2020 conference, which is as good as canceled. That doesn’t mean, however, that iOS 14 and the next versions of macOS, tvOS, and watchOS won’t be unveiled this summer.
Apple’s yearly developer conference is typically the venue where Apple unveils its software plans for the coming year. Apple demos the newest iOS and macOS features during the event, focusing on the iPhone and iPad. That’s because the newest iOS (and iPadOS) updates launch just months later with the new iPhone.
iOS 14 will be one of the highlights of this year’s WWDC event, and some of Apple’s new software features have already leaked in detail. The first iOS 14 beta is expected to drop right after the WWDC keynote, but it so happens that Santa Clara County has banned all mass gatherings for the time being. Apple’s campus and San Jose, where WWDC takes place, are both in the county. Assuming the ban is extended after the initial three-week timeframe, Apple might have to cancel its WWDC plans. Here’s what the ban order says:
Today, the Public Health Department is announcing a mandatory order issued by the Public Health Officer requiring the cancellation of mass gatherings in the County.
This order will take effect at 12:00 a.m. on March 11, 2020 and will remain in place for three weeks as more widespread testing becomes available and we are able to learn more about the spread of COVID-19. We are also announcing new, stronger guidance for the general public and for many specific groups designed to reduce the spread of the virus in our community.
“This is a critical moment in the growing outbreak of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County. The strong measures we are taking today are designed to slow the spread of disease,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer. “Today’s order and new recommendations will reduce the number of people who develop severe illness and will help prevent our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed. This is critically important for anyone with healthcare needs, not just those most vulnerable to serious illness from COVID-19.”
Even if the county will not extend the ban past April 2nd, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Apple will consider canceling the event. The company already took several protective measures to ensure the safety of its employees and will likely continue to do so until the COVID-19 outbreak has been addressed.
Apple has yet to announce anything about its WWDC plans, and has yet to confirm whether it will hold a press event in March. However, even if these events are canceled, Apple is still likely to hold online-only events, especially for WWDC 2020, which is the kind of event that Apple can’t afford to cancel completely.
YouTuber Jon Prosser says that sources from inside Apple informed him that WWDC 2020 will not be canceled, but might get a different format, one that would eliminate the face-to-face meetings with developers. If that’s accurate, WWDC might become an online-only event this year, just like Google’s I/O developers conference.
However, it’s all in flux, and there’s no official announcement from Apple about WWDC changes at this time. The same YouTuber said that Apple canceled the March event before having had a chance to actually send out invites to the media. Some products will still be unveiled this month, Prosser said, but not the new iPhone 9.