They were 5,200 developers — mostly men — who develop applications for Mac computers, iPads, iPhones and other devices Apple is producing with great success.
The developers with stars (or dollar signs) in their eyes gather every year for this ritual — the Developers Conference.
The big news on Monday was not simply what new devices Apple had come up with (and there were plenty) but the fact that Steve Jobs, the chief executive who has been out on medical leave for several months, would make a rare appearance. And right on schedule –an Apple trait – there he was, dressed in black, looking thin and a little frail, with a slightly raspy voice. He carried a bottle of water up to the podium, in probably the only non-scripted move of the conference.
The developers were a lusty, noisy, enthusiastic group. They ate up the news that Apple was putting iTunes, its music service, in the cloud. That means that instead of buying an album or a song from iTunes and storing it on your own computer, Apple will keep it for you on a remote server in North Carolina and you can listen to it whenever you want. They’re calling this development the iCloud, and it includes a feature that will allow you to access the music (or photos or books or whatever) from all your Apple devices.
There was little cynicism from the audience. They cheered at the demonstrations of new products, at the fact that Apple users won’t have to “save” their copy any more; a new operating system will do it automatically. They applauded the new Lion operating system and a “newsstand” that will keep track of your online subscriptions –which you can read on all your devices. There’s even a feature that will remind you when to call your wife or husband when you leave a building on the way home; the device knows through Location Based Services when you exit.
For the non techie, it could have been difficult to figure out what was important in the dozens of new features Apple was touting. And it wasn’t easy to get a read on Jobs either.
The crowd will be back next year, for sure, and so will Apple with a new array of products you can’t live without.
The real question is whether Steve Jobs will be back.