This story will sound familiar to a lot of people this morning, I fear: I woke up to a handful of text messages, emails and IM messages saying Apple had opened sales for WWDC tickets at 5:30 am. I frantically jumped out of bed and to my computer, to try and buy one immediately. Of course, as it were, all tickets were sold out.
The rules this year around state that a personal Apple developer account can only get one ticket, and a company account can get five. Tickets are non-transferable to and non-refundable prevent scalping.
I appreciate the fact that Apple is trying to prevent scalping, and tickets going on sale for double the price on Ebay and Craigslist, but I think they’ve only exacerbated the problem. Now, legitimate developers such as myself do not even have a third-party recourse to buy a ticket at a premium.
Here are some things Apple could have done instead:
If first-come first-served is really the approach they wanted, a better way would have been to announce when the tickets go on sale in advance, and let everybody set their alarm and fairly race for the ticket.
They could have staggered the ticket sales over the course of the day; making 500 new tickets available every hour.
They could have used a criteria other than luck to decide who gets a ticket. Perhaps limit it to developers that have apps in the store, developers who can solve a programming puzzle. Even an application where developers have to state what they hope to get out of the conference.
They could have solved the supply / demand problem by making the price proportional to the amount of tickets left. Every ticket sold augments the value of the remaining tickets. The 1000th ticket could have been worth $2250, the 2000th $3000, and so on, going up in price as the supply dwindles.
I don’t think any of these solutions are perfect. But I think any of them would have been better than the way Apple chose to go, screwing legitimate west-coast developers out of the most important conference and learning experience of the year.