Drawn to San Francisco by the lure of a pumped-up Apple (AAPL) operating system and other product-line surprises, software developers from across the country and around the globe descended on the Moscone West conference center Monday morning for the Worldwide Developers Conference 2012.
Eagerly awaiting the expected keynote speech by CEO Tim Cook, his first since the death last October of Apple co-founder and perennial emcee Steve Jobs, 5,000 developers paying nearly $1,600 a head were expected to show up for the five-day conference.
And in a nod to the youthful community of developers and entrepreneurs behind the tech renaissance sweeping Silicon Valley these days, Apple has reduced the age requirement this year from 18 years old to 13 -- as long as the young developers bring along a parent chaperon.
"This event is special because you get the best Apple engineers and developers together in one place," Global Equities Research analyst Trip Chowdhry said. "Apple can then completely lay out the road map for the next 12 months so that the developer community knows what's coming and how to improve on it."
In contrast to years past, when Apple would participate in a number of fan and developer powwows, the June get-together
now serves as the major opportunity for the Cupertino-based software braintrust to build on its partnership with the far-flung developer community.
Besides the Monday morning keynote, at which Cook could well make news introducing new software or hardware as Jobs had done at past shows, the developer-focused event features more than 100 sessions on iOS and OS X platforms, as well as demonstrations of app services, developer tools, and breakthrough technologies in graphics, media and games.
As a sign of the event's increasing popularity, all 5,000 tickets sold out in April in less than two hours, breaking the previous year's record by ten hours. Rumors, as usual, have been rampant about what announcements might emerge from the conference. Many analysts are expecting a new version of iOS, upgrades to the Mac Pro desktop and MacBook Pro laptop product lines, and possibly the integration of Facebook into iOS, just as Apple did with Twitter in 2011. There's also a chance that new Apple TV software could be unveiled.
At the top of the list of anticipated news, though, is the promise of even better software to tie together all of Apple's gadgets and services.
"We are expecting some significant developments around the Apple Ecosystem -- the 'glue' that sustains its momentum," wrote Ben Reitzes, an analyst with Barclays Capital, in a note. Reitzes also expects upgrades to Apple's MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines.
He said new software innovation "and more attractive pricing could catalyze sales -- with the potential to double the run-rate sales of portables at Apple within a few quarters."
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