Whenever an event sells out in record time like the 2011 Worldwide Developer’s Conference just did, one always wonders why event organizers didn’t see this coming and expand as necessary. But when looking to expand an event such as WWDC, there are a number of factors that Apple has to consider before taking that step.
Location: Moscone West in San Francisco
San Francisco’s Moscone Center can certainly accommodate more than the traditional 5,000 attendees normally allotted at WWDC. Apple could decide to make use of the full convention center and take over both the North and South venues as well. But location is not the issue. In fact, if it were, relocating to a location like Las Vegas could potentially accommodate all of Apple’s registered developers (were each to buy a ticket) without issue.
So if keeping things small and confining the conference to just 5,000 attendees is what Apple has determined is key to puling off a successful conference, then perhaps simulcasting to multiple locations or repeating the event in various regions of the world is a better way to deal with increased demand. This makes perfect sense in the entertainment business, where entertainers are looking to maximize time spent in front of fans. But WWDC is not about entertainment, and as much as Apple would like to spend more time with developers, it’s not nearly as easy to do remotely.
Speakers: Apple Engineers
That leaves just one scarce resource as the true reason Apple can’t afford to expand the WWDC to accommodate more developers. The presentations and materials that are showcased at WWDC are of the highest quality (speaking from personal experience). Each presentation is lead by an Apple Engineer. During WWDC 2010, one of the presenters had a live demonstration that started going badly, and the presenter started to choke. Within minutes a second presenter stepped up and took over an alternate demonstration and the topic proceeded on schedule without anyone walking away feeling like they’d missed out on something. In other words, Apple puts the same time and energy in its conference at it does it products, and that becomes much harder to do once you start playing with size.
Conclusion: WWDC 2012 Will Sell Out in Minutes
So long that Apple insists that the speakers at WWDC are all Apple Engineers and other product-related associates, then WWDC will continue to sell out in record time. Pulling off an annual conference of this quality, using the very staff you also depend on for your core business is a very expensive undertaking. The location will likely never change because of its proximity to the very resources (Apple employees) that make the conference a great success. It will also likely never be repeated in different locales, given Apple’s relentless release schedules for its products (taking time out for conferences threatens this schedule). The only opportunity would be to possibly simulcast the event around the world, and such event ever occurring at this scale in multiple locations worldwide would also be difficult and costly to pursue — likely more so than the ultimate reward would merit. So be prepared to be close to an internet connection in 2012, because WWDC ticket sales are likely to break records yet again next year, because Apple isn’t likely to make big changes even in the face of strong demand.