As I was thinking about what to do next after watching a Marilyn Monroe documentary last week, YouTube recommended a clip from the 1997 WWDC conference featuring Steve Jobs. Watching Steve Jobs in a fireside chat with developers and his vision for Apple’s turnaround made me realize how WWDC in 1997 turned out to be a great breaking moment for the company, which was going through its lowest phase during this period.
Re-watching Apple’s old WWDC opening videos gave me the perspective to look at WWDC’s impact on developers and the app economy from a different perspective. No matter what we say about the “new” Apple under Tim Cook, WWDC will always be a software conference that is a collective effort to step into the future.
With this year’s WWDC 2022 event kicking off later tonight, we look back at five memorable and moving moments in WWDC history when Jobs was still the helm of business at Apple.
WWDC 1997: Steve Jobs returns to Apple and the start of macOS
“Focus is saying ‘no,'” the late co-founder explained at Apple’s 1997 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). “You have to say ‘no, no, no’ and when you say ‘no’ you piss people off.” That’s Steve Jobs, who returned to Apple more than a decade after being forced out of the company he co-founded. Although Jobs was only a “consultant” in the company, he was brought back to overhauling the production and design of the company after the acquisition of Apple to acquire NeXT for 400 million dollars. dollars.
The best of Express Premium
In a fireside chat with developers at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Jobs explained how he wanted to make changes at the company. It was more of a question-and-answer session than a style of presentation that Apple has followed for years.
For those who follow and cover Apple, the WWDC 97 conference marked the start of a new chapter in the company’s history. Rather than unveiling new products, Jobs addressed the major issues Apple was struggling with. Its engineers were doing some interesting work, but that work sent the company in “18 different directions.”
“I know some of you spent a lot of time working on things that we put a bullet in your head,” he explained during the conference. “I apologize, I feel your pain, but Apple suffered for several years from poor engineering management.”
Most importantly, Jobs used WWDC 97 to focus on using NeXT software (you can read the NeXT story here) as the basis for the next version of macOS. An object-oriented, multitasking, UNIX-based operating system, NeXT proved far superior to what most companies were offering at the time. And what Apple wanted was to make its Mac line more desirable.
Burning trivia: Remember when Jobs predicted iCloud in 1997?
“Do you know how many times I backed up my computer? Zero. I have computers at Apple, at NeXT, at Pixar and at home. I approach one of them and log in as myself. It goes through the network, finds my home directory on the server and I have my stuff, wherever I am. And none of this is on a local hard drive.
That’s how Steve Jobs described cloud computing in 1997 during a Q&A session with developers at WWDC. Jobs has already seen how people would use computers in the future and back up their data when “the cloud” wasn’t a thing at all. Years later, on June 6, 2011, in San Francisco, Apple showed off something called “iCloud” – its “next cloud service offering” at WWDC.
WWDC 2002: The end of Mac OS 9
“A friend to us…always there for us, except when he forgot who he was and had to be restarted,” Steve Jobs opened his WWDC 2002 opening presentation, featuring a mock burial for Mac OS 9 with a full-size coffin, a pre-written eulogy and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor in the background. It was Apple’s way of saying goodbye to the old “classic” Mac OS and telling developers to prepare their equipment for the operating system of the future, which was Mac OS X.
“Mac OS 9 is not yet dead for our customers, but it is dead for [developers]”, said Jobs. “Today, we say goodbye to OS 9 for all future development, and we focus our energies on development for Mac OS X.”
The biggest takeaway from this WWDC is that Apple didn’t shy away from embarking on a new operating system of the future, even if it had to move away from the old operating system that made wonders in the past. Apple did the same thing when it launched the iPhone in 2007. Jobs and the team knew that the iPhone would make the iPod less important and eventually make the best-selling music player obsolete.
The annual developer conference gave Apple the chance to preview the next major release of Mac OS X. Codenamed Jaguar, it added new updates including a built-in instant messaging client, handwriting recognition handwriting, a new version of Sherlock, and improvements to OS X’s Mail and Finder, among other features.
Hot Fact: Did you know Xcode was announced at WWDC 2003?
“I’ve literally worked with Apple’s developer tools since integer basic in the garage in 1976, and I have to say, it’s the best thing we’ve ever done in developer tools,” said Chris Espinosa, an employee at Apple. ‘Apple, during the demonstration of the first version of Xcode. Announced at WWDC 2003 alongside Mac OS Panther, Xcode is still used today in application development for all of Apple’s major platforms.
WWDC 2005: Intel’s transition
“It is time for a third transition. And yes. It’s true.” The next slide contained only one word: “Why?” Steve Jobs finally confirmed the rumors that Apple was abandoning Power PC chips for Intel processors. This was the major news in the world of technology that year, and perhaps the most important moment in the history of WWDC. In the opening speech, Jobs explained why the change was necessary and how he planned to move from PowerPC processors to Intel processors.
The conference assured developers that Apple’s move from PowerPC to Intel would be seamless – and was completed in two years. History repeated itself when Apple announced that it would be replacing Intel chips in its Macs with its own ARM-based silicon at WWDC in 2020.
In some ways, the 2005 and 2020 presentations were similar. Instead of making consumers excited about the transition, Apple made developers understand the technical reasons and how Apple could build better and more powerful computers. Either way, as Apple proved with its Macs, the new chips offered better performance and power efficiency than the ones they replaced.
WWDC 2008: the app store
The first iPhone came with apps, but none were created by third-party developers. Developers didn’t like Apple’s approach – and under pressure from developers, Jobs asked them to develop their own web apps that would run on the new platform. However, after a backlash from developers, Apple announced the iPhone SDK and then the App Store.
“Of course we will have all these great apps, but how are we going to distribute them? The App Store… it’s a way for developers to reach every user. Users can choose their apps and download them wirelessly directly to their phone,” Jobs said, speaking to hundreds of developers and attendees.
A few weeks later, Apple’s App Store for the iPhone launched with 500 apps and a 30% reduction in all sales to Apple. A decade later, the iPhone is still the best-selling smartphone and the App Store is the main way to download apps. More importantly, the iPhone App Store has created new industries and led to companies like Uber, Snapchat, and Spotify. But there is another side. Apple has been accused of charging fees and setting unfair rules on its App Store, which is the only gateway for using apps on its iPhones and iPads.
WWDC 2010: The launch of the iPhone 4
Steve Jobs’ presentation of the launch of the iPhone 4 remains one of the best moments in the history of WWDC and Apple. “Stop me if you’ve seen this before. But trust me, you haven’t seen it,” Jobs said, joking about leaks surrounding the device months before it was revealed. Jobs described the iPhone 4 as “one of the most beautiful things you’ve ever seen.” He even compared the iPhone 4 to an old Leica camera.
Sure, the iPhone 4 was a design marvel at the time, but it also came with a real-time video chat app called FaceTime. It was also the first iPhone to feature a high-resolution Retina display. Although reviewers praised the design of the iPhone 4, it was soon discovered that the device could experience signal dropout. In fact, the iPhone 4’s antenna issues caused a lot of PR issues for the company. The following year, Apple announced the iPhone 4s, featuring a redesigned antenna design. The iPhone 4s was launched by new Apple CEO Tim Cook on October 4, 2011. Jobs died on October 5, 2011, a day after the iPhone 4s was introduced.