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Summary:

Why didn’t Apple’s event organizers see a 2011 WWDC sell-out coming and expand as necessary? When looking to expand an event such as WWDC, there are a number of factors that Apple has to consider before taking that step, and the risk outweighs the reward.

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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.

Image courtesy of Flickr user adamjackson1984.

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  1. So Google I/O sells out in 59 mins and WWDC sells out in 10hrs. But since this an article about Apple it has to be said as record time.

    1. Record time for WWDC. Obviously other evens in history have sold out faster. That honor may go to the Spice Girls in 2007 at thirty-eight seconds. The constraining factor of WWDC was meant to be the focus.

      1. I understand your counterpoint, and not trying to be rude, but it needed a reference to previous WWDC events rather than opening with “Whenever an event sells out in record time like the 2011 Worldwide Developer’s Conference just did”.

  2. “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.”

    Sure, the reasons you list could be valid, but the obvious one is that the exclusivity and “limited supply” factors play huge in Apple’s marketing strategy, and when news breaks of how quickly the WWDC sells out, it scores big points in Apple’s favor.

  3. SJ obviously hates trade shows. He killed MacWorld which both built and saved Apple, no thanks from AAPL brass. If they could figure a way to appease the dev’s without setting foot in SF, they’d do it. SJ’d feel more at home iChatting from his would-be Woodside iCave, if it ever gets built. The only reason one can imagine they go to Yerba Buena’s theater for non-show product releases is they don’t want the media and cameras on Apple property. Great that Steve “saved” Apple, but it will be a RELIEF when he, and his non-Apple corporate brass finally all step aside and let Apple follow one of it’s own biggest mantras: promoting from within. Sorry SJ.

    1. Andrew Macdonald iPhoney Tuesday, March 29, 2011

      If you’ve got such bad things to say about Apple, may I ask, why the hell are you visiting an Apple related fan/news site?

      Bloody troll.

  4. “key to puling off”

    puling?

    “Each presentation is lead”

    Shouldn’t that be ‘led’? (An editor would know.)

  5. Apple should personalize the tickets. So noone can buy a ticket only to sell it and earn money.

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