Apple’s plans for its annual Worldwide Developer conference in San Jose were thrown into chaos as the COVID-19 Pandemic spread, but rather than cancelling as many conferences have, Apple has switched to an Online conference for 2020.

It all kicks off on June 23 when CEO Tim Cook will lead a team of Apple execs and product specialists to talk through the plans for their many operating systems for the year ahead.

This includes iPadOS, iOS, WatchOS and MacOS, all critical to the company’s success and while changes may be incremental, they add features and value to customers.

Following that will be a program of online sessions, yet to be outlined, for developers around the world to engage in and learn more about how to make their apps better.

But there’s one group of people who will be sorely missed by the developer team at Apple – the Student Developers.

As Esther Hare, Senior Director, Worldwide Developer Marketing for Apple explained in her exclusive chat with EFTM, the team at Apple get a real buzz from seeing and engaging with these students “..the kids every year, they have so much energy and enthusiasm and they just dash around and they’re just so excited about everything. And so, you can’t have a bad day when you’re around the students. They’re really fun to be around as well as the fact that they’re so smart and they’re so motivated and so inspired.”

“So we, of course, we’re going to miss the opportunity to spend time with them, but we’re going to do our absolute, very best to make sure that we are encouraging them to stay connected, that we’re supporting them in any way that we can”

In 2020, Apple are offering a new challenge for Student developers – and it’s rather exclusive.

The “Swift Student Challenge” won’t just result in 350 names being announced, those winners will receive a 2020 WWDC Jacket and Pin set.

That Jacket, that Pin set, normally lauded over by the 5,000 developers in attendance at WWDC – but in 2020, only the Students will get them. Exclusive or what!

With coding such an important learning experience and part of our school curriculum, Esther Hare reminds us the kids can teach themselves using Apple’s “Swift Playgrounds” app, saying “There’s no parental supervision required. It’s very self-explanatory. It’s fun, it’s engaging and we know anecdotally, there’s a lot of kids who play a lot of video games and now they’re so bored of playing the same game over and over again. Now they want to learn, how do I do mods or how do I create my own game? How are games made?”

While 2020’s WWDC looks set to be a winner, it seems clear 2021 will see a return to San Jose for the event, Esther Hare telling me “I would say one thing we’ve all learned over these last couple of months is that there is no replacement for the human connection”

Going on to say “we honestly can’t wait till the next WWDC so we, we can get to see our developers. It is for a lot of us that talk to developers on a daily basis or are involved in the developer world, it’s our chance to put a human face to these, you know, “developers” that we think about all day as a collective and really to see all of the different developers and all of the different perspectives and ideas.”

And with developers, entrepreneurs, and innovators across the world all staying at home, the big question is – will this COVID-19 pandemic actually give rise to a creative and innovative boom“I would love to think so. I would love to think that at the end of this terrible time for the world, that there’s going to be some real good that comes out of it. And I hope some of that is more people focused on technology for good. Ways that we can use technology to connect each other, to support each other as a world.

We haven’t had this in our lifetimes before, where the whole world is facing the same issue and fighting the same war. So I’m hopeful, you already see it everywhere, you know, the kindness of humanity coming out. And I’m hopeful that this will be a whole new world for us, as a human race, but also as, as people who are really thinking about what can technology do” Ms Hare told EFTM.