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Apple’s 10 most important WWDC announcements of all-time

Published Jun 13th, 2016 10:08AM EDT
WWDC History

Later this afternoon, the collective eyes of the tech world will be glued in to Apple’s WWDC event. And with good reason, WWDC not only provides us with a look at where the future of Apple’s software is headed, it can sometimes give us an idea as to where the entire software industry is headed.

Over a period spanning more than two decades, WWDC has routinely been the arena where Apple delivered its most important and groundbreaking announcements. More recently, though, Apple began sectioning off hardware announcements into stand-alone events, thereby leaving WWDC as a mostly software-oriented event.

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This year, WWDC 2016 promises to be full of a number of interesting announcements. And if we’re lucky, hopefully Apple will have a few surprises up its sleeve as well. So to help get you primed for Monday’s festivities, we’ve put together a list charting the most surprising, interesting and impactful WWDC announcements of all time.

WWDC 2002 – OS 9 is officially sent packing

At WWDC 2002, Apple announced its intention to officially end all OS 9 development. And driving the point home, Apple even held a mock funeral for OS 9 (complete with a casket), thereby signaling, rather emphatically, that the future of the Mac would be OS X and OS X only.

WWDC 2005 – Transition to Intel

While Macs today all run on Intel processors, those who have had Macs for years on end know that this wasn’t always the case. So when Steve Jobs at WWDC 2005 announced that Apple would be transitioning from the PowerPC platform to Intel, the Apple community was completely taken by surprise. Notably, the operational wizardry of Tim Cook was partly responsible for a remarkably smooth transition. Just seven months after the announcement, Intel-based Macs were already finding their way onto store shelves.

WWDC 2008 – App Store

Finally listening to demands from users, Apple at WWDC introduced an SDK for the iPhone — and the mobile world would never be the same after that.

WWDC 2012 – Apple Maps

What’s that you say? The release of Apple Maps was plagued by bugs? Yeah, nobody can deny that, but the unveiling of Apple Maps was a significant event insofar that it signaled Apple’s desire to completely remove Google from the valuable piece of real estate that is the iOS homescreen. It also signaled that Apple wasn’t afraid to take on a huge and complex software project, no matter how daunting and challenging.

WWDC 2010 – iPhone 4

When Steve Jobs boasted that the iPhone 4 would represent an A+ upgrade, he wasn’t lying. The iPhone 4 was the last iPhone model Apple ever introduced at WWDC and it was arguably the biggest generational leap forward in iPhone history. For starters, the iPhone 4’s Retina Display instantly made previous models look antiquated. What’s more, the iPhone 4 introduced us to FaceTime and also saw the first incarnation of Apple’s A-x processors with the A4. And while bulky by today’s standards, the iPhone 4 was a good 25% thinner than its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS.

WWDC 2005 – Podcast support in iTunes

Apple didn’t invent the concept of the Podcast, but the 2004 unveiling of iTunes 4.9 (with support for Podcasts built-in) effectively kickstarted what would eventually become a Podcast revolution. Given the ubiquity of iTunes at the time — thanks to Apple’s success with the iPod — millions of people were instantly able to subscribe to and download podcasts with ease.

WWDC 2003 – Safari 1.0

At WWDC 2003, Steve Jobs introduced the first iteration of Safari. While Safari’s market share today isn’t anything to write home about, the rollout of Safari was significant insofar as it signaled Apple’s determination to be as self-sufficient as possible. It’s almost easy to forget that the default web browser on all Macs prior to the introduction of Safari was (gasp!) Internet Explorer. WWDC 2003 also saw the introduction of

WWDC 2009 – iPhone 3GS and iOS 3 unveiling

The iPhone 3GS and iOS 3 were the main attractions at WWDC 2009. And while the iPhone 3GS was a nice piece of hardware with some nice speed improvements, the main attraction at WWDC was all about software. Specifically, iOS 3 finally gave the iPhone a long list of features that users had waited years for, including cut, copy and paste, MMS support, push notifications, spotlight search. Find my iPhone was also introduced at WWDC 2009.

WWDC 2014 – Apple introduces Swift

In a world where seemingly every Apple rumor leaks out ahead of time, the introduction of Swift in 2014 caught everyone off-guard. A high-level programming language designed to supplant Objective-C, Swift had been in secret development for a good four years before its public introduction at WWDC 2014. Since its unveiling, Swift has slowly but surely grown in popularity amongst developers. As it stands today, Swift is the 14th most popular programming language according to the Tiobe index, ranking just one spot ahead of Objective-C.

WWDC 1998 – Steve Jobs discusses Apple’s OS X strategy 

Though Apple today is all about iOS, the transition from OS 9 to OS X was one of Steve Jobs’ greatest and most impressive accomplishments at Apple. And though OS X wouldn’t ship until 2001, Jobs at WWDC 1998 laid out Apple’s OS X strategy.

Yoni Heisler Contributor

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.