If Apple’s PR is to be believed, the Apple-Macworld dropout is due to long term plans to exit trade shows altogether. It isn’t that far-fetched either. As they stated, they’ve been slowly dropping off of the world expo stage in the past few years. The timing and manner of dropping out is suspect (was there a last minute breakdown in negotiations?), but fundamentally, it seems that this was always the plan.
Macworld Expo, unfortunately, has little hope of survival…at least if they go the way of other Expos that Apple has left. Just this week, Apple Expo Paris closed their doors, just one year after Apple dropped out of their show. Macworld East only made it a few years without Apple before it shuttered itself. Macworld Tokyo? Remember that? Gone after Apple left.
I was at Apple Expo Paris during Apple’s last year there in 2007. Although there was no keynote or announcements, Apple’s presence was a notable anchor to the whole thing. Apple employees were all over the floor in their Apple T-shirts answering questions (in many languages). It legitimized the event. Last year, without Apple, there was a desolate tone. Many fewer companies participated and the vibe at the show was totally different. This year’s cancellation didn’t surprise many, certainly not me.
So I cringe when I think of Macworld 2010. There will most likely be a show of some sort. It will likely (and unfortunately) be similar to the last Macworld Boston. Most huge Mac vendors will likely show up but the elephant in the room will be Apple’s absence. Perhaps, as the biggest and best non-Apple Apple show, it can keep up for awhile. The people who have been coming to the yearly Apple Hajj from all over the world for the past 25 years could keep it going. You can’t stop salmon from returning to their nesting grounds every year, right? Perhaps the same will hold true for Macworld attendees. However, 2009’s economy won’t be helpful in attracting vendors.
Macworld Expo, if they want to stay relevant has to change their message ASAP. They need to focus on community. On workshops. On business networking. Technology reviews. Apple businesses. Apple Enterprise – something which Apple does extremely poorly on.
On the flip side, what does Apple plan to do to fill the void of a missing event? The World Wide Developers Conference, held every summer has been gaining traction in recent years and has been the spot for some of the major announcements. There are vendors who participate in this event as well so it will likely fill much of this void – at least on a global scale.
Also, Apple made mention of its many Apple Stores which serve as a showcase for their products: “The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week.”
The stores have also created a local hub for Apple aficionados. A daily mini-Expo if you will. Larger stores have lots of entertainment and learning events much like a micro-Expo. Apple users can meet like-minded people at these stores just like at a Macworld Expo, except these people might actually be from the same area.
In the end, I think this is mostly about Apple controlling the message AND the medium. Whatever the backstory is, this was the long term goal of Apple and reflects a changing world where streaming Internet video is replacing Jetfuel, posh hotels, and expense accounts. Apple is going to its customers via the Apple Stores rather than making its customers trek to see it at its yearly events. For the harcore/developers, Apple can have its summer global expo at a time and place of its choosing. For the press, Apple will stagger its events throughout the year at venues around the Bay area.
This has been a long transition and it has finally reached the end phase.
That being said, I will still miss the Macworld Expo.
This article originally appeared as a blog posting on our sister site, Computerworld.com.