Apple to Macworld: Drop Dead

Commentary: There was an amazing paragraph in the press release Apple put out yesterday announcing Steve Jobs would not give the Macworld keynote address and that this would be the last year Apple exhibited at the show.

“Apple has had a long and mutually beneficial relationship with Macworld Expo, which has been the site of some of our most significant product launches. Although we’re moving in another direction, Macworld Expo has been a great resource for the Mac community and we wish them well going forward.”

What’s amazing about that paragraph is that nothing like that was in the release. I made it up. Instead, the terse release makes no mention of Jobs and merely states Vice President of Marketing Philip Schiller will give the keynote, and that Apple’s decision to abandon the show is part of a longer term decision its made to scale back its involvement with tradeshows.

Analysts I talked to make the valid point that Apple now reaches customer more broadly through its greatly expanded network of Apple stores.

Also, there has been an expectation (set by Apple), that every Macworld has to be the venue of a significant new product release and January is not necessarily the best time of year for Apple to do that.

Apple Insider hyped this angle pretty well with the headline:

“Apple wanted out of tyranny of MacWorld – reports”.

Why now?

But I think there’s more to Apple abruptly turning off the Macworld switch. For one thing, how did Apple help customers, or anyone else, by announcing less than a month before the conference that it’s the last Macworld it will participate in? Apple could have just as easily revealed its plans after the event, instead of broadcasting, essentially, that Macworld’s for losers shortly before the show.

I’m sure there were control and other issues between the two parties, but let’s get real about who was really in the driver’s seat; Macworld needs Apple more than Apple needs Macworld. There’s no hard and fast rule that new products have to be released at the event or even that Steve Jobs has to give the keynote. There are, for example, plenty of creative and high profile celebrity Mac users. The conference side could, and perhaps now will, take on a very different flavor, sans Jobs.

The bottom line seems to be that Apple and Mr. Jobs, as always, does what’s in its own perceived best interest. Apple was by far the biggest anchor tenant at Macworld. Its presence legitimized the event, which has been a great venue for software publishers and Mac hardware vendors to reach customers directly and create positive buzz in the Mac community.

As for cost, there are many other ways Apple could have given its valued stamp of approval to Macworld without putting much of a dent in its considerable bank to mount giant exhibits, and supported the broader Mac ecosystem.

But Apple wasn’t in control at Macworld. It didn’t control the show dates, the agenda or the exhibitors. It’s going its own way and apparently that’s its advice for the broader Mac community.

David Needle is the Bureau Chief of’s San Francisco bureau.

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