A Brief History of Apple’s WWDC Keynotes, 1997-Present

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Harry McCracken

Steve Jobs leaves the stage at the end of WWDC on June 7, 2010.


The previous WWDC keynote ultimately mattered less than it seemed like it might. This one, held on June 9, felt extremely important at the time–and went on to be significant in ways that probably startled even Apple. It introduced iPhone OS 2.0, third-party iPhone apps, the iPhone App Store, iPhone multitasking and the MobileMe service. And then, almost ninety minutes into the keynote, Jobs announced the iPhone 3G.



With Steve Jobs on medical leave, Apple marketing honcho Phil Schiller headlined this June 8 keynote. Demos included OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (a Mac software upgrade with few new features) and iPhone OS 3.0 (an iPhone upgrade with tons of new features). The “one more thing” was the second iPhone announced at a WWDC: the iPhone 3G S. (Which, a few days after its launch, Apple decided to call the iPhone 3GS.)



Jobs returned for this June 7 event, which was deflated by the fact that Gizmodo had bought an iPhone 4 prototype from a man who found it in a bar. The blog revealed Apple’s new handset months before Apple did at WWDC. Given the preemptive publicity, Jobs did his best to distort reality as usual. He did get to introduce the high-resolution wonderscreen which he dubbed the Retina display.



Steve Jobs’ final appearance at an Apple event, less than four months before his death, came on June 6. The WWDC keynote he hosted included a detailed walkthrough of OS X 10.7 Lion (which had first been demoed the previous October) and introduced iOS 5 and iCloud.



We know that this year’s keynote will feature OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and iOS 6. The odds of at least one new Mac–a 15″ portable of some sort–seem high. Beyond that, the WWDC rumor mill has done a sketchier job than usual of sorting out the probably-will-happens from the not-gonna-happens. More thoughts to come…

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