Day One of Macworld|iWorld: It’s Not CES

SAN FRANCISCO - It’s day one of the newly rechristened Macworld iWorld trade show, and the very first thing I’ll say is that it sure as heck ain’t CES, and I mean that in nothing but great ways. Oh sure, CES is vastly larger than Macworld|iWorld, especially since Apple pulled out of Macworld Expo four years ago, but Macworld|iWorld is the better event in my opinion.

Day One at Macworld|iWorld

The left hand side of the Macworld|iWorld floor, where even the smaller booths were packed

It’s all about the vibe. If you’ve never been to CES or Macworld, both shows serve radically different purposes. CES is an industry-only event. That means that only the press, vendors, retailers and distributors can get in. The general public is entirely not welcome. The practical effect of that is that CES feels artificially frenetic. It has a mercenary and commercial feel to it, and in my experience no one has a good time when they go.

Don’t get me wrong, CES is necessary. If you make a widget, a gadget, a googaw, or a thingamajig and you want to make deals with retailers and distributors, CES is a must-attend event. The press is there in droves, too, and this includes press from around the world, so you also have a chance at getting some ink (be it real ink, virtual ink, or even TV time).

Of course, it’s not a focused show, so a lot of those industry people and press are there for the car audio systems, the home entertainment gear, the new TVs, the new PCs, the new camera gear…and the list goes on and on and on.

Still, it’s an important event in the consumer electronics world, but the Mac and iOS ecosystems are more than just consumer electronics. For one thing, we have software. If you’re making apps for the App Store or applications for the Mac App Store, there is all but zero reason for you to be at CES. Mac software developers looking for retail space might find something at CES, but the reality is that software distribution is heading towards a day where it will be all but exclusively online.

Another key component of Macworld|iWorld is that some companies need to meet with customers. This could be for exposure or it could be to connect with people and get feedback on your product, or it could even be because you want the chance to sell some merchandise to people (selling on the floor of a trade show is a way to mitigate expenses, but is rarely profitable, for those keeping score at home).

Whatever the reason, however, if reaching out to end users and potential new customers is important to you, Macworld|iWorld is where it’s at—as I noted up above, end-users are strictly verboten at CES.

On the other hand, it’s no secret that Macworld|iWorld is smaller than Macworld Expo when Apple still had a major presence here. In my opinion, Apple should still have a major presence here; not because Apple needs is—Apple does not need it—but rather because the ecosystem and its participants need this event. Vendors need to meet with the press, the press needs to meet with vendors, and both of those camps need to be able to interact with end users. We all need face time with one another and Apple should support that, even if it doesn’t make announcements.

For those reasons Apple should support this show, but it doesn’t, which means we’ll all just have to deal with it. And the reality is that Macworld|iWorld has a more relaxed atmosphere now that Apple is gone.

So how was the first day of the show? It was very cool. I would like to see more booths, but the show floor was packed, and IDG has done a lot to change the nature of the conferences. There is more happening on the show floor, and there was even a live music area on the second floor of Moscone West that gave the entire place a very arty kind of ambience.

Macworld|iWorld definitely isn’t like CES, but that’s a good thing to me. This show is fun. This show is interesting. I would like to see more vendors and more booths, but the companies that are here are being swamped with people. There are far, far more smiles walking the floor and working the booths at Macworld|iWorld than I’ve ever seen at CES, and that says it all to me.