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It's The End of the Macworld As We Know It

Mac observers will have to find something else to obsess about each winter: Apple announced yesterday that it will not participate in Macworld Expo after January's convention--which itself will not feature the usual Steve Jobs keynote.

In other words, we can all stop speculating breathlessly about which "one more thing" will conclude Jobs' presentation. True, Apple marketing vice president Phil Schiller will give a keynote in place of Jobs on Jan. 6, but that's Just Not The Same.

And without an Apple presence at all in 2010, Macworld Expo appears as doomed as show organizer IDG's other, now-departed Mac gathering, the summer Macworld Expo it used to stage in Boston and New York--and which died a quick death after Apple quit headlining the show following the 2002 event.

Apple explained the news in a short "Apple Announces Its Last Year at Macworld" press release that boiled down to "we don't need to persist in this exercise anymore":

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple's Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Reaction to the news has been all over the map. You can see a few responses along the lines of "Nooooo!!!!" in some comment threads--a sentiment brilliantly parodied by a fake "Apple Announces Last Year of Christmas" story.

Industry analyst types have thrown out a few explanations, many focused on Steve Jobs' yielding the keynote stage on such short notice. For instance, EWeek's Joe Wilcox suggested that Jobs' health was the real reason--an issue also raised by Time's Josh Quittner but rejected by CNBC's Jim Goldman. Apple, as usual, isn't saying either way.

Others have looked at the fate of Macworld in general. The Mac newsletter TidBits provided a somewhat sentimental summary of Macworld's history and what Mac folks--not just businesspeople, but everyday users--get out of the show: "The Mac community is about connecting with one another, and Macworld Expo remains the preeminent place to reapply the glue that binds us." Jupitermedia analyst Michael Gartenberg, by contrast, largely agreed with Apple's stated rationale in a bottom-line-focused piece, noting that "Apple, unlike many other companies has the ability to draw audience of press and analysts as needed." And at TechCrunch, the verdict was simply "it's about time."

Tech trade shows in general have lost much of their importance. Many have folded outright, including such once-mandatory events like Comdex, Internet World and PC Expo. Even the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show will have fewer attendees, to judge from the plummeting Vegas hotel rates.

Macworld also has suffered from bad timing. I never quite grasped the logic of a consumer-focused company making its biggest product announcements two weeks after the end of the holiday shopping season. Setting aside the broader viability of big conventions, a summer Macworld in San Francisco would make a lot more sense in terms of retail seasons.... and in terms of allowing attendees to catch a baseball game in the evening.

Yes, I would be lying if I didn't admit that one of my favorite things about Macworld has been its San Francisco locale. I could do without the scramble to find a seat at the keynote, the effort involved in resisting Jobs' Reality Distortion Field during it and the rush to file a report afterwards, but it's always been a treat to walk out of the Moscone Center at the end of a long day and reacquaint myself with that extraordinarily pleasant city. I'll miss that.

How many of you ever made the trek to the Bay Area for Macworld? What's your reaction to the news?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  December 17, 2008; 7:10 AM ET
Categories:  Mac , The business we have chosen  
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David…… Plouffed?
Come on, Campaign Manager to Barack Obama? The man who will, without a doubt, be referenced in history books and is the talk of people everywhere in the business and political world just plain forgot this detail?
The enormity of what has occurred is mind blowing. David Plouffe tentatively calls his book Audacity to Win as a reference to Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. Why would Mr. Plouffe release this to the associated press last week without first having purchased the name in its internet domain form?
Isn’t this, most certainly a case of you should “practice what you preach?”
I bought the domain this is where the debate begins! Was he Plouffed? Or did a small town girl force the “marketing guru” to change his book’s title?

Posted by: firefly970aolcom | December 17, 2008 8:37 AM | Report abuse

If Macworld survives, Apple is just playing for a boost. They will be back when they actually have something new to offer, besides an existing product with a bigger hard drive. In other words, their absence for a few years will make it more important when they do show back up.

Posted by: cgallaway2000 | December 17, 2008 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I believe the whole concept of MacWorld represents Apple's "1984" commercial having come true.

Posted by: Wallenstein | December 17, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Attended MacWorld SF & MacWorld NY & Boston many times. I was in Boston in 1997 when Apple unintentionally recreated the "1984" TV commercial by projecting a video signal of Bill Gates onto the stage. All three venues at one time were a good time for an Apple follower, however the SF show was the best. Its unfortunate and will be missed!!

Posted by: bob_edmiston | December 17, 2008 9:26 AM | Report abuse

FRESH FACE is always GOOD and invigorating!
It's the exact opposite mr. Pegoraro - Jobs' not appearing is causing an explosion of INTEREST and CURIOSITY in APPLE.

Steve Jobs can not be forever, and it's not good for a company to be forever the biggest star the same person for quarter of a century.
Gates is gone. Jobs is gone.
That's GOOD.

Posted by: snappir | December 17, 2008 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Will at least the tech journalists won't have to decide whether to go to Macworld and CES that often occured at the same time. Apple gave clues that their association with Macworld was at an end when Apple pulled out of the massive National Association of Broadcasters convention last year. Apple's a major player in the broadcast video editing and post production business. The reason Apple cited was the high exhibit floor fees and outrageous hotel prices Vegas charged during the Broadcasters convention. Hotel fees weren't as high for Macworld and most Apple employees didn't have to travel, but it seems that Apple had decided several years ago to get out the tradeshow biz. The big loser with this announcement is San Francisco. Macworld was one of the biggest conventions in SF and was held right after the holidays when its hard to fill hotel rooms.

Posted by: oorfenegro | December 17, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

I for one will be sad to not have the ability to see these keynote speeches presented by SJ. It's not that someone else can't present the information or that it needs to be in a trade show venue. I just like his style, his presentation technique and the buildup to the announcement of just one more thing.

Yes, nothing lasts forever and from the perspective of needing a trade show to get the news about Apple products out, ending the show probably makes sense. It's just an age passing...

Posted by: webnuts4u2 | December 17, 2008 11:02 AM | Report abuse

From an Eastbay PC user whose only auto trips (strictly business) to SF are in the same neighborhood as Mac Expo, this means a couple days with one less guaranteed traffic snarl.

NON arrivederci.

Posted by: featheredge9 | December 17, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Could it be possible that IDG blew it? Trade shows are certainly not cheap for the exhibitors and those high costs combined with a bad economy might have been the tipping point for many, including Apple.

Posted by: KHMJr | December 17, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Steve Jobs is not the product, nor the chief engineer, nor the idea generator. He is merely the show man with charisma. I'd continue to use Apple products no matter who ran Apple. The real perceived fear is that Apple with crumble if Steve Jobs leaves for whatever reasons due to possible management problems which Apple is famous for. But I am writing this post on a MacBook Pro and I've used Apple's since the 512k Macintosh (with no color and no hard drive). Apple is so big and powerful now they really don't need the MacWorld expo if you think about it. Apple has the Apple Stores and their web site and that's all that they need.

Posted by: blakesouthwood | December 17, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Phil Schiller jumping off a ledge to demonstrate an accelerometer for the original clamshell iBook. I watched Steve open the case of the blue-and-white G3 saying "it's called a door!" All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die...

Posted by: kennedye | December 17, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

I think the key word is the price the IDG thieves wanted to participate. The price for a booth at Linuxworld -- even the nosebleed seats out in the weird zone far away from the doors -- was so high for their shows that you had to be Apple or IBM to even play. At some point, you cut your losses -- $500K for a booth at a show that YOUR products created? Seems a bit off to me.

Posted by: dboyes99 | December 17, 2008 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Firefly... - have you noticed that this is the tech blog? As far as I know, David Plouffe has never presented at MacWorld Expo, let alone given the keynote.

Apple has shifted its major presentations to events that it controls. Either the developer's convention or special events. MacWorld has some nice coverage of the decision and its impact.

Ah well. I'm happily typing away on my new MacBook Pro. Lame name, but a grrrrreat computer.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | December 17, 2008 9:28 PM | Report abuse


Interesting observations as always. We're looking forward to seeing you at CES this year -- we're excited to report that we have 300 companies exhibiting for the first time at the 2009 show among our 2,700 exhibitors.

One note regarding Las Vegas hotel room rates -- as you note, they have been declining steadily, which is great news for CES attendees. The number one complaint from attendees following the 2008 show was hotel room rates -- hotels were gouging attendees with rates upwards of $600 per night. Two factors are combining to bring room rates down now: first, several thousand new hotel rooms have come online this year, including new properties like Encore, Trump and Palazzo. Second, tourist travel to Las Vegas has fallen off the cliff. The LVCVA just announced that in October tourist traffic was down over 10%, leaving literally tens of thousands of hotel rooms dark in the city. It's only getting worse since then. These factors lead to lower room rates across the board.

As for CES, our pre-registration figures are strong and point to a very well attended show this year. Tradeshows take on renewed importance in a down economy, because they are remarkably efficient for businesses -- the average CES attendee has 12 meetings with customers while at the show, saving 12 separate trips. It's important for business executives to see their customers face to face, which is why more technology business gets done at CES than anywhere else.

Jason Oxman
Consumer Electronics Association

Posted by: joxman1 | December 17, 2008 11:24 PM | Report abuse

At least he didn't close San Francisco. Jobs can't do that yet......or can he?

Posted by: musket1 | December 18, 2008 6:42 AM | Report abuse

I suppose it feels a little like growing up.

With the death of Macworld the Mac Tribe is diminished. We can't all make the trek to San Francisco, and we can't all work at 1 Infinite Loop, but we could all gather round our computer clicking the refresh button during the Steve-note.

I think we all knew things had to change. Apple is no longer 5% of the market. Apple like any R&D company can't be forced to develop products on a fixed, poorly timed, yearly development cycle. And from a business perspective you just can't let it continue that a Steve Jobs sneeze causes your stock to tank.

And we know that Apple, like Microsoft, isn't at heart the touchy-feely company we want it to be. We've seen Apple legal go after the rumor sites. We know how secretive a company they are. And we note the passing of the Apple resellers that kept that company going during it's darkest hours.

I wonder what the future will bring? Will they have Special Events to showcase their products? Or will they just (gasp) go to CES?

One way or another, it's just changed.

Posted by: tokrueger | December 18, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

"No institution can possibly survive if it needs geniuses or supermen to manage it. It must be organized in such a way as to be able to get along under a leadership composed of average human beings." ~ Peter Drucker

Don't underestimate the impact of leadership. But as Drucker infers in the above quote, it is the responsibility of leadership to ensure the viability of the company by designing systems. Basically, Apple had better have systems in place to be successful with or without Jobs.

Posted by: CmdrSue | December 18, 2008 10:51 PM | Report abuse

I'll miss the annual pilgrimage of a beleaguered minority to the city of my birth, despite the fact that I attended only once. MacWorld has always been (for me) the physical manifestation of convergence culture in which thousands of the faithful convened to reaffirm their dedication to a fairly unpopular choice (of quality over ubiquitous popularity).

I won't miss the deeply dreadful experience of cruising aisles packed with great numbers of branded humanity while struggling to pay attention to hype and flailing elbows, but the direct, subjective, experiential, yearly reminder of a likeminded community truly is an irreplaceable thing of inspiring beauty.

It really was the realization of an insanely great metaphor audaciously staged in the City of Perpetually Improbable Hope.

Posted by: sellington | December 22, 2008 12:56 PM | Report abuse

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