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May 96 Inside Info
Volume Number:12
Issue Number:5
Column Tag:Inside Info

Getting the Most out of WWDC

By Guy Kawasaki, Apple Fellow

Every year, Apple hosts its World Wide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) for five thousand or so raging, inexorable Macintosh evangelists. It’s a not-to-be-missed event, but even when you subtract the value of the t-shirts you’re going to get, you’ll spend a pretty penny to attend. So here’s some advice on how to get the most bang from your WWDC buck.

First, hunt down engineers and product managers. Forget trying to corner the bigwigs like Gilbert Amelio, Dave Nagel, or Heidi Roizen (or me) to tell them about your breakthrough product and to get their blessing. To reach the executive level, there are segment loaders that swap out sound bytes very efficiently. Instead, pursue contacts with engineers and product managers because they have real clout. They decide who gets - officially and unofficially - pre-release information, beta copies, and other goodies.

Second, when you do find an engineer or product manager, make the right pitch. If I had a nickel for every developer who told me that his or her product would save Apple, I could donate a color LCD projector to every Macintosh user group in the world and still have enough money left over to buy a NSX. What Apple employees want to hear is that you will sell tons of your Macintosh products. If you’re doing good, we’re doing good, so focus on doing what’s right for your customer and your company. If you do this, Apple will be okay too.

Third, avoid people who are wearing ties. Someone who wears a tie to WWDC, no matter what his title, needs to rebuild his desktop file and zap his parameter RAM. WWDC is about communicating information, not projecting image. Anyone trying to project image has seriously misjudged the purpose of attending WWDC and is likely to waste your time. Better you be in your hotel room playing Marathon 2, than listening to buzzword-laced conversations.

Fourth, don’t assume Apple’s right hand knows what the left hand is doing, and don’t take “no” for an answer. This is a general recommendation no matter when you’re dealing with Apple. If you want something from Apple - a copy of Copland, a Macintosh ROM listing, or a waiver of a copyright lawsuit - just keep asking until you find someone who will give it to you. If one part of Apple says no, don’t assume that the rest of Apple is aware of this decision and will fall in line. In fact, there are some parts of Apple who will intentionally say yes if you’re turned down - certain Fellows, for example.

Fifth, make connections outside of the Apple employee circle. The most important contacts you can make may not be Apple employees but your colleagues at other software companies and industry organizations. You’re cheating yourself if you’re not in the hallways discussing:

• What compiler produces the fastest code?

• What’s the best way to write cross-platform applications?

• Which distributors and retailers are open to Macintosh products?

• How many hits has your company’s Web page generated?

• Did bundling with the Performas help long-term sales?

• Which software evangelists at Apple return phone calls?

Sixth, skip any panel with more than four speakers. A good moderator, like a good tester, is hard to find. Most moderators ask too many people to join their panel, and then allocate equal air time to all. What good is a seven-person panel for a one hour session? As Andy Grove would say, do the math: 7 panelists ¥ 5 minutes/panelist for introductory remarks = 35 minutes. Sessions always start 10 minutes late, so if you’re lucky, you’re left with a grand total of 15 minutes of discussion. The ideal panel has three people: two panelists with violently opposing positions, and one moderator.

Seventh, take in the cultural highlights of Silicon Valley. (Do you know the difference between yogurt and Silicon Valley? Yogurt has culture.) Three places you won’t want to miss are ComputerWare, Fry’s Electronics, and Computer Literacy. ComputerWare is a Macintosh-only store that stocks so much Macintosh hardware and software that your mouth will water. (One WWDC breakout should be a field trip to ComputerWare to illustrate what a Macintosh store can look like. I suggest you take pictures to show your local Egghead store manager.) If a programmer were given the task of creating heaven, Fry’s Electronics would be the end product: Twinkies, chips (silicon and edible), computers, audio equipment, and software under one roof. Computer Literacy is the world’s greatest computer and business book bookstore. You can kill two birds with one stone because both Computer Literacy and Fry’s are located near each other only five miles from the San Jose Convention Center. If you go to this mecca, make the trip a grand slam by eating at Togo’s Deli (I recommend the #16 sandwich).

Finally, bring the family and stay the weekend. If you stay on Saturday night, airfare is much cheaper, anyway. Within two hours of the Convention Center are San Francisco, Napa Valley, and Monterey (with the Power Macintosh 9500 of aquariums). I can see it now: “Michael Jordan, you’ve just won the NBA championship. What are you going to do next?” “I’m going to WWDC!”

 

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