Apple takes a trade show pass

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There’s something different about this April for me. You see, normally I’d be in Las Vegas attending the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual trade show—dodging 130,000 people as I moved from meeting to meeting across vast halls, spending my per diem on Sbarro pizza, and hitting the pai gow tables in the wee hours of the night (after my stories were filed for the day, of course).

But not this year—I’m sitting at my desk in San Francisco instead of wandering around the Las Vegas Convention Center. For the most part, this is because of Apple’s decision to forego a booth at this year’s NAB trade show. Unlike the 2007 event for video and audio professionals, which Apple used to launch Final Cut Studio 2, the company indicated it would have a scaled back presence this year. And it’s not the only company—Avid also took a pass on exhibiting at this year’s show. Certainly, there’s still product news a-plenty for Mac video pros, but the reduced presence of some major players at NAB means that I’m sticking close to home.

Of course, the issue of interest here doesn’t concern my travel plans; instead, let’s focus on Apple’s overall plans. In confirming its decision not to have a booth at NAB, the company said it was “participating in fewer trade shows every year, because often there are better ways for us to reach our customers.”

Like many companies, Apple typically used these big trade shows as platforms to launch new or updated products. But with the notable exception of last year’s Final Cut Studio 2 announcement as well as Steve Jobs’ annual keynote to a massive audience of Mac users at the Macworld Conference & Expo each January, Apple product announcements during trade shows have come with less frequency. At the NAMM music show in January, Apple was similarly boothless, using a private demo to showcase an application it released five months earlier. And at January’s PMA show for photography pros, Apple not only went boothless, it introduced a major update to its Aperture software for professional photographers two weeks later.

The reality is that Apple is just as likely to make a product announcement on any given Tuesday as it is during a big trade show. And for important products, Apple now tends to hold its own launch events or press briefings (again, with the notable exception of Macworld Expo), where it can control the timing and conditions around those announcements. That makes it harder to predict when hardware and software will come out, but it also means Apple can feel more free to make announcements when it’s ready to do so, not when a certain event happens to fall.

Apple’s move takes away some degree of predictability for Mac users—you can’t time your buying decisions to trade shows if they become increasingly disconnected with Apple product releases. But it also adds the opportunity for speculating on what future news Apple has up its sleeve. As for me, I’m sure I can concoct some other reason to go to Vegas.

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