Apple's WWDC will be an 'online experience' due to coronavirus fears

Online tech events are the new normal.

Tom Brenner/Getty Images News/Getty Images

It's official: Apple's WWDC developer conference will be virtual this year and the coronavirus is to blame. The company announced the developer conference will be an "online experience" in June.

Apple's WWDC website doesn't share any details on how an online-only WWDC will work, but offered the following:

Join us for a fully packed program — including Keynote and sessions — to gain early access to the future of Apple platforms and engage with Apple engineers. Dive into an exciting learning experience and discover how to create your most innovative apps yet using the latest Apple technologies.

What's all of this mean? Will executives like Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, and Craig Federighi still hop up on stage at an empty Steve Jobs Theater to announce new hardware and software? Actually, that'd be pretty funny.

"The current health situation has required that we create a new WWDC 2020 format that delivers a full program with an online keynote and sessions, offering a great learning experience for our entire developer community, all around the world," Schiller said in a press release. "We will be sharing all of the details in the weeks ahead."

Similarly, Federighi hyped WWDC despite virtual format. “With all of the new products and technologies we’ve been working on, WWDC 2020 is going to be big."

The online-only format for WWDC joins other major developer conference cancellations like Google I/O and Microsoft Build, both of which were scheduled to take place in May.

Screenshot: Apple

Online won't be the same — It's bleak. The entire year has basically been canceled. While WWDC isn't canceled entirely, an online experience won't be the same as a physical event that draws over 6,000 people from all over the world.

It's hard to say how this new online experience will work. For Apple, the company usually uses WWDC to announce new hardware and software, which gives attendees opportunities to better understand how they might develop for Apple devices and platforms.

At WWDC 2019, Apple unveiled the Mac Pro and Pro Display XDR and let media take a first look at the new cheese-grater tower before it launched at the end of last year. If Apple announces new hardware, nobody will be able to see it until they hit stores. Apple could also hold smaller media briefings. But with so many people working remote and social distancing themselves as a result of the coronavirus, it's unclear if any media briefings would even make sense anymore.

Everything is canceled — The list of cancellations and rescheduled events is long. MWC, SXSW, GDC, Facebook F8, E3, Disney and Universal theme parks, the Geneva Auto Show, the New York Auto Show, Coachella. There are new announcements every day as the number of reported coronavirus infections and deaths rise.

This story is developing...