The End of Macworld Expo

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

Macworld Expo is over. At least as we know it. Yesterday, Apple announced that 2009 would be "the last year the company will exhibit at Macworld Expo." Further, Philip Schiller will be delivering the keynote at the upcoming Macworld Expo -- not Steve Jobs. And this will be "Apple’s last keynote at the show." Oh yes. Macworld Expo is so over.

I know some of you may accuse me of being alarmist or overreactive here. So be it. I firmly believe I am correct.

In theory, Macworld Expo could continue to thrive without an Apple booth in the Exhibit Hall and without an Apple keynote address. In theory, yes. In reality, it will not. It will not do so anymore than the Macworld Expo in Boston survived the loss of Apple back in 2005.

For one thing, it isn't just Apple that is pulling up stakes. Several other big companies, including Adobe and Belkin, had already announced their departure for this year. With Apple now going, others are sure to follow by next year. Blame it on the bad economy or the fading role of trade shows or whatever else you want. But these companies are going away and will almost certainly never be coming back. I predict that next year, the Exhibit Hall will be, at best, a shadow of its former self.

In theory, Macworld Expo could survive without an Exhibit Hall at all. Instead, it could focus entirely on conferences and workshops. It could transform itself into something more like Apple's WWDC. In theory, yes. In reality, this too won't happen. I don't know the exact percentage, but I estimate that at least 75% of the people attending Macworld Expo only go to the Exhibit Hall. Without the exhibits, the show would devolve down to a much smaller event. Because of its favorable location, it might barely survive in this reduced state (even though an attempt to do the same thing in Boston failed altogether). But it would no longer be the Macworld Expo we now know.

More likely, Macworld Expo 2010 will be the final one.

There are still a couple of mysteries that surround this news.

The biggest one is: Why now? Why did Apple decide to make the announcement of its termination just a few weeks before the 2009 Expo? They could have waited until after the event was over. It seems almost unnecessarily cruel to have dropped this bombshell at this juncture.

The obvious answer is because Steve Jobs is no longer going to deliver the keynote. Once that was a given, it made sense to reveal the rest of the news as well. But that just bumps the question up a level: Why is Steve not giving the keynote this year? Why not do it this one last time and then announce Apple's departure?

No one outside of Apple knows the certain answer to this question. Some have speculated that it is related to problems with Steve's health. I suspect something more mundane. This is all consistent with Steve's personality and general mode of operation. Once he decided that Apple's relationship with Macworld Expo was going to be over, he wanted nothing to do with the event anymore. Not even to show up for the Expo keynote next month.

Indeed, I suspect that Apple's decision to pull out of the Expo is about more than just economics. It's about control. Macworld Expo was the last non-Apple-sponsored event where Steve Jobs and friends had a big presence. Now all of their interactions with the public can be shaped and controlled by Apple itself -- from their retail stores to the WWDC to special invitation-only media events. For better or worse, Apple is like a politician who wants to limit his public apperances to staged rallies rather than holding a press conference. It's all about control.

I expect Steve Jobs to be at the WWDC and other Apple events over the coming year. At these events, it has been common to bring out a well-known singer to close the keynote. For this year's Macworld Expo, if there is a guest at all, it will almost certainly be an overweight female opera singer.

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Comments

Marc

I don’t think you’re alarmist at all. I think you are dead-on in this being the end of the line.

I’d just add a couple of thoughts on why Apple is pulling out and why Steve Jobs isn’t giving the keynote:

1) I personally won’t be buying any Apple technology this holiday season. Why would I when the best new stuff will be unveiled just days after Christmas. I doubt I’m the only one. MacWorld SF is a drag on holiday sales.

2) IMO, Steve doesn’t want to go to SF to announce nothing. I think Apple doesn’t have anything sexy lined up and ready to go in January and I just can’t picture Jobs building a keynote around the performance enhancements in Snow Leopard. Can you?

This is a change that’s been a long time coming. I’d look for some press event akin to the WWDC keynote to be created by Apple to kick off the holiday sales season. Perhaps that will lead to a shift in the timing of WWDC to earlier in the year.

gopher

Wow, no comments thus far!  Anyway, it would seem that Apple not only wants firm control over its unexpected release dates on everything, but also wants to improve its online presence.  Here’s to hoping they finally get e-mail tech support going.  A lot of us east coast people miss the idea of a Boston Macworld Expo, and wish there was even a DC Macworld Expo.  Without even a San Francisco one, Apple has nothing to show off its wares except the net, and stores that are too crowded for words.  They need many more stores in inner cities if they want the Enterprise market.  DC is starving for a store inside town.  Montgomery Mall is too far for many inside the city, and Bethesda’s ministore is barely representative of what’s there, and Bethesda Computing disappeared, and MacUpgrades barely is able to fill the void.
Tysons Corner and Clarendon is getting farther for people in Silver Spring, and Fort Washington because traffic is horrendous, and Metro is stumbling.  Inner city stores and additional stores would help.

Here’s to hoping pulling out of Macworld altogether lets them focus on buying more retail space.

gopher

Good point Marc about announcing products.  Macworld needs to be every November for holiday sales at minimum.  Or every July again, to get the education market and the fiscal year markets for government.

breeze

Apple did this before with Macworld in Boston… It collapsed then and will again now.

This could be actually very stress reducing for Apple and Jobs. The past few SCHEDULED events there were a lot of product info leaks and preempting *not to mention under the microscope and literally up the ass scrutiny of Steve Jobs that was in really bad taste and ethics…

As Apple has become a star so to has the riff raff coverage, exposure and stock manipulation increased. It’s gotten really absurd the level of malice and fabricated news that’s brought the stock down to a point where many loyal and real investors have gotten seriously hurt. The current financial climate only harbors more of this etc…

Maybe it’s a really good way for Apple to take better control and isolate themselves to focus on their company , innovation and products with less efforts to battle the lynch mentality and have more control over leaks, product development cycles free of public deadlines. Why provide a map to to the morons who have relied upon it to feed their thrills.

Who needs it, less stress and public hysteria can only help keep focus and innovation on track - undisturbed and un-perturbed. *

Jobs could certainly use less stress and with the rate of travel and negotiations he’s involved with these days, he needs to be free of the public monkey spectacle and relaxed.

Action speaks louder than words. Apple’s products are the bottom line. No one comes close to them. The proof is in the pudding.

fultonkbd

My thoughts on why… (Just speculation)
The trade show seems to be a dying trend. With all the news outlets, websites, bloggers, etc. As a company, the need to get everyone in one place to announce new stuff isn’t as strong.

Cost of doing a trade show is expensive. In a good economy it’s hard to justify the funds so you can imagine what budget meetings are like in this economy.

Steve Jobs is getting older and probably is working to pass the torch to the next in line. So I assume in the next few years he will try to stay low key and deflect media more on just Apple and not Steve Jobs’ Apple.

Marketing… I would assume that attendance numbers are going to be low for MacWorld. By announcing that this will be Apple’s last show now. It puts MacWorld in headline news so people talk about it. Maybe it will increase attendance to some degree.

rpaege

[quote=“breeze”]...literally up the ass scrutiny of Steve Jobs….

I’m pretty sure you mean figuratively.  I don’t recall seeing any up-the-butt takes of Jobs’ last colonoscopy (thank gawd).


This probably is the death knell for MacWorld as we know it, but I have to believe there will be another show of some type to take its place.  The WWDC alone just won’t cut it.

breeze

...you may not recall but there were “literally” intestinal diagrams, medical illustrations, photos and all sorts of garbage splashed every which where in really poor taste.

There will always continue to be new product special events, presentations and public product demonstrations, seminars, workshops, gatherings and unveilings at Apple’s discretion , timing, choice and convenience on Apple’s campus or elsewhere, without the publicly pre set constraining dates.

azarkon

I somehow doubt apple is ditching Macworld because of the cost.  Yes, there’s an ecnomic downturn, but apple has billions in cash and said that they were planning on spending their way through this one.  they can use the money another way, but I have trouble imagining apple without a big new release showcase sometime or another, and money can’t buy the hype and cachet that macworld had. 
But the real losers are the smaller mac vendors.

geoduck

It isn’t just Apple
http://ostatic.com/blog/novell-cancels-brainshare-conference-after-20-years

Novell has cancelled their BrainShare conference. This has been running for decades and <to the Novell community> is as important as MacWorld was to us.

Big Conferences and Tradeshows are a thing of the past. Any bets on how long the Detroit Auto Show will last?

fultonkbd

Regardless of how much money Apple has, they still have to justify spending. If the return on the investment isn’t there then Apple isn’t going to spend the money on it.

I believe Apple had around 5 Billion in cash when they stopped doing MacWorld on the East coast. Now I would figure that they could of done one hell of a trade show display using only a portion of that. But they still felt that the cost of doing that show wasn’t worth the return.

Cost/ROI definitely had a factor in their decision making this time around too.

Maciej Kijowski

I’ve seen some Steve’s keynotes on YouTube and it’s a shame that we will never have a chance to see it again. I think, that something has changed (or just started to change) at Apple. Chnages could be good or bad. We need to believe that this change will bring something good.

PSMacintosh

I think that the original article is spot on!

This is all about Apple & Jobs taking even more CONTROL over all things “Apple.”

And this SCARES me (because, along with the good, there has been lots of little things NOT to like about Apple’s actions over the years—although the newer Mac Press has been very soft and cautious with their criticisms and requests/demands for improvements).  (I’ve been around since the beginnings.)

Now Apple can control even more of what info (etc) gets released about itself…or doesn’t get released.
The more Apple is in control, and the less it has to actually rub-shoulders with the real people and main-stream press, the more opportunity it has to go along courses that don’t answer to the people.  (And I think that has the potential for problems.  Plus I don’t think that that is the true “Macintosh way.”)

I shiver when I think of some of the words I’ve heard come out of Steve Jobs mouth this last year.
Instead of building the computer (or cell phone) for “the common man” and “the whole world,” Steve seems OK with being an “elitist” company with “elitist” products.  OK with not making a computer as inexpensive as it could possibly be. 
That’s not the Apple way and ideals that I was led to believe in and idolize.

Also, now Apple is not pressured by the Macworld SCHEDULES to come up with software fixes/upgrades/new releases or hardware product upgrades/new releases on a continual and timely basis.
Apple can choose and control all the timings or even decide to postpone/slip dates indefinitely.
No regular, external timeframes that Apple has to live up to.
This is a major “freedom from pressure” for a computer company.
Yet, ultimately, this is BAD news for us users.

fo

There are a lot of dramatic changes ahead for Apple and all their fans. For instance, they are going to abandon professional machines and focus on consumer devices (not that you haven’t noticed already). But more interestingly, they will finally sell OS X without hardware. Their hardware efforts will be for consumers… the only nod to pros will be their OS.

And as always, it will be the right move to make at the right time, even though many won’t agree.

Search your heart… you know it to be true

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

You’re close. It’s not really about control per se. It’s just that the IDG folks are giant asshats who control something disproportionately bigger than they are. Likely, it went down like this. Apple wanted to cut back its presence this year. IDG hit them with lots of bullshit fees. Steve Jobs said fine, have a MacWorld without Apple next year. They didn’t budge. Steve decided he’ll sleep in on day 1 of this event. IDG still will try to put lipstick on their pig. So count on Steve doing something outside MacWorld within a week of the keynote to show that IDG doesn’t call the shots on Apple’s product schedule anymore.

Apple needed IDG in the 90s. Earlier this decade, IDG was a necessary evil. Today, IDG is a pimple on a frog’s ass.

The health story is silly, because if it’s true, the reaction should have been 5x as severe. Nobody really believes it, because it only makes sense if you think rank amateurs run the company. We haven’t had one of those in charge since Gil Amelio.

dahlenu

Good article. There are many good business reasons for Apple to withdraw from Macworld, but in the end, it’s still a giant insult to Apple’s loyal base. If Macworld was just a trade show, as Apple pretends it is, I might agree with the company’s decision. But Macworld is also a Conference and a gathering of Mac people, famous and not so famous. The conference is almost always very good. Apple’s decision will kill all of this. They are saying f-u to everyone who stood up for them during the hard times. I’m very disappointed in Apple.

dahlenu

We can now start to see the end of the Jobs era. I would guess he will go on for a couple of years as CEO and then only as Chairman of the Board and then as Senior Something; the usual slow phase-out.
Is there something good about this? Yes! While Jobs got Apple off the brink of the abyss, he is also the one to blame for many stupid decisions. The restricted product line up (four variants, consumer/professional, laptop/desktop) may have been smart in the beginning, but is now really annoying. Where is the “Mac Midi”? Why is there not a MacBook with Firewire? There are two few models in every segment.
Jobs is also responsible (I would guess) for Mac OS X being unfriendly to “skinning”, the iPod/iPhone having a non-replaceable battery and no plug-in memory card, any many other things. Again, these might have been good decisions for a nearly-failing company, but not for a very successful company.
I look forward to the post Jobs era.

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