Apple's Absence from NAB Rings Hollow

Apple has said that it pulled out of NAB because there are better ways to reach customers. In fact, thatis exactly what Apple wants, customers, not industry professionals, engaging them. That would be too annoying.

Explaining its absence at NAB, Apple said: "Often there are better ways to reach our customers. The increasing popularity of our retail stores and Web site allows us to directly reach more than 100 million customers around the world in innovative new ways."

In my opinion, that translates into: NAB is too much of headache. Apple would have to stand in front of experienced industry professionals and the press, lose a little control, have its staff inundated with technical questions, and be expected to show leadership and partnership in the industry. Instead Apple, in violation of the Cluetrain Manifesto, would rather sit in an ivory tower and collect credit card numbers and let their users fight out the problems in the forums.

Iive seen this effect before at Apple. Itis better in Appleis eyes for FCP customers to come into an Apple retail store and buy a copy of Final Cut Pro multiplied by 10,000 than send their overworked and non-press-qualified people into a booth at a major show. But it doesnit have to be either-or. It should be both.

These shows are the price of admission to a club. While Apple often creates its own rules, this isnit one it can easily break. A company shows up, takes on all comers, works with the industry, becomes a partner and role player ... or can just retreat behind walls.

The other problem, from my experience, is that Apple spends so much energy controlling its message and appearances that the design of the booth, logistics and press-training is just too much effort, especially since Mr. Phil Schiller is heavily involved in all those aspects. Once again, the departure from NAB isnit so much a sign of disinterest as it is constrained resources of a company thatis leaning towards US$40B revenue in 2009 with a 2000 management team that handled $5.5B.

In any other company, with such a strong leadership role in media and video production, attendance at NAB would be considered compulsory, the cost of doing business. In my opinion, Apple can fool itself into thinking that this is simply a costly marketing event, a routine trade show that stresses its booth staff and managers, but that doesnit cut it for a company of Appleis size and responsibilities in the content creation business.