Town Hall gives clues to future directions for Macworld Expo

Future Macworld Expos could embrace film or music festivals. Or they could return to East Coast destinations like Boston or New York. Or they could move from city to city.

Those were some of the ideas floated at Wednesday night’s town hall meeting, in which Macworld Expo organizers tossed around ideas with Expo attendees and exhibitors about the future shape of the annual Mac trade show.

Wednesday night’s event was necessitated by Apple’s decision to pull out of the show after this year. Apple announced in December that it would not be back for the 2010 Macworld Expo, currently slated to kick off on January 4 of next year.

Paul Kent, vice president and general manager of Macworld Conference & Expo, began Wednesday’s standing room-only event at San Francisco’s Moscone Center with a few ideas of his own. With the moniker “The start of a new era,” Kent said he envisioned future Expos as embracing film festivals, music festivals, and digital photography as a way to engage the attendees.

“We come to Macworld to be inspired,” said Kent. “This show is going to evolve and you need to know that we are embracing this evolution.”

In his talk, Kent spoke about the conference sessions and the trainers the event brings to San Francisco. According to Kent, 85 to 90 percent of those trainers have already committed to returning to the 2010 show.

When Apple announced its decision to pull out of future Macworld Expos, the company said it was part of an overall strategy to reduce its presence at trade shows while using its brick-and-mortar stores to reach customers. The company says it holds the equivalent of hundreds of Macworld Expos at its network of Apple Stores every week—a contention repeated by senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Phil Schiller during Tuesday’s keynote.

On Wednesday, Kent disputed that claim, contending that 90 percent of the products exhibited on the Macworld Expo show floor are not available in the Apple Store.

“We want Apple to go build more great products and then we’ll be here to show you how to use them,” Kent said.

When Kent opened up the floor to ask what event organizer IDG World Expo should do with the 2010 event, suggestions ranged from having an e-mail address to send future ideas to having more “scrappy grass roots” involvement in the show.

The idea of having a traveling roadshow was brought up again, as was bringing a Macworld Expo back to Boston. Perhaps the loudest cheer came for another Macworld Expo in New York. The last Macworld Expo was held in the Big Apple in 2002—the Expo moved to Boston the next year, without Apple’s involvement. After two expos in Boston, IDG World Expo canceled the East Coast Mac event.

Variable pricing of conference sessions was another popular theme on Wednesday—that would allow users more choices in picking individual sessions to take during the week.

IDG did get hit hard from some attendees for the lack of support for gaming at the show. “Last year was a pathetic joke,” one town hall attendee declared.

Kent said that 60 companies, including HP, Microsoft, and Other World Computing, have already signed up for the 2010 Macworld Expo. He said IDG World Expo is talking to other developers and exhibitors throughout the course of this week.

After the event, Kent told Macworld that he was happy with the amount of participation from so many different segments of the market. “It was done in a very constructive way,” he said.

IDG World Expo has opened registration for Macworld Expo 2010, offering it for free. If you want to send feedback or ideas to the Macworld Conference & Expo team, you can send an e-mail to suggestionbox@macworld2010.com.

IDG World Expo and Macworld are both owned by International Data Group.

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