Big tech conferences go online and free
Apple and Microsoft will hold their big annual developer conferences as virtual events this year and throw them open to anyone who wants to attend.
That's a boon for those in the software sector who have little prospect of paying the conference entry fee, or the flights and accommodation that goes with attending these big US-based conferences.
Microsoft will hold its Build conference May 19 - 21 this year, while WWDC, Apple's developer conference, will take place from June 22. I attended WWDC last year which was a particularly action-packed conference with the unveiling of iPadOS, a new dedicated store for Apple Watch apps and the debut of the powerful new Mac Pro.
But many of the sessions went well over my head, aimed as they were at developers rather than journalists. Last year, a developer paid US$1,599 to attend WWDC and demand was so high they had to use a lottery system to allocate tickets. The room was heaving with tens of thousands of people when Tim Cook took to the stage to open WWDC.
Build is a similarly epic affair and cost US$2395 to attend last year. Sessions will be streamed online, with a keynote from Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, beamed out across the world.
Cisco Live (June 2-3) will also run online free for all to see and VMWorld will similarly be a digital event, held the week of September 28.
From a sustainability point of view, the planet will be breathing a sigh of relief without all those conference-goers belching carbon emissions on their way to major US cities to cluster in conference halls and meeting rooms. Though the financial impact on the conference, accommodation, hospitality and travel industries will be significant. Those big US conferences alone account for around 150,000 attendees a year.
Will virtual conferences of this scale become the norm? We'll see how Build goes, but there's definitely less buzz around virtual conferences. IBM Think was held virtually this week and didn't attract nearly as much media attention as usual, even with a new CEO greeting many for the first time. There's a lot to be said for having an opportunity to meet up in person. everyone knows the valuable networking on the conference sidelines are the highlight anyway.
So the tech conference circuit, with CES in Las Vegas in January the biggest of them all, will probably resume when social distancing provisions are removed. But there's a lot to be said for running more virtual events allowing free access to all who are interested and maybe holding smaller regional events for networking opportunities.
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