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What To Make of Apple's Exit from Macworld

Posted by: Peter Burrows on December 16, 2008

As Arik just blogged, Apple has announced that Steve Jobs will not be doing the keynote at this year’s Macworld show, and that this will be the last year Apple attends the tradeshow that has been the venue for so many famous Steve Jobs keynotes.

Of course, the first thought goes to Jobs’ health. The company declined to comment directly as to whether this was the reason marketing chief Phil Schiller will be doing the keynote, instead of Jobs. Rather, spokesman Steve Dowling says that since “this will be our last year, it doesn’t make sense for us to make a major investment in a trade show that will we no longer be attending.”

I pray that Jobs’ health is fine, but this reasoning isn’t very convincing. If there was ever a good trade show-related investment for a company, it’s Steve Jobs’ Macworld keynote. It pretty much guarantees headlines in major newspapers and business publication around the world, and has the added benefit of stealing the thunder from the throngs at the Consumer Electronics Show, often held the same week. Personally, I would think that Apple would have gone the other way: guarantee even more publicity by hyping the opportunity to see Jobs’ last Macworld performance.

Of course, there could be a reason unrelated to cancer to explain why Jobs is leaving the keynote duties to Schiller: that it won’t be much of a show, in terms of product news. The company just refreshed the notebooks and iPod lines, and there’s little talk of a new iPhone out there yet. While TBR’s Ezra Gottheil attracted buzz this morning by predicting a low-priced netbook, even he says this was based only on his own tea leaf-reading. Personally, I don’t see it happening. Jobs only recently said in October that Apple didn’t know how to make a great $500 PC that lived up to its quality standards. My guess is that the company hasn’t learned how since then (though I suppose it could argue it does know how to make a great $599 device, which is what Gottheil thinks may be coming).

Either way, this is a very bad day for the tradeshow business. Here we have a company with $27 billion in the bank, that gets massive, global exposure from a talk that rarely lasts two hours. If Apple can’t see the ROI in Macworld, what company can justify the tradeshow bill?

Of course, Apple is correct in pointing out that it has many other ways of reaching consumers, that other companies can only dream of. Apple knows how to throw its own events just fine, saving some of its biggest news for them in recent years. Dowling says this will continue. “We’ll continue to do these events as regularly as we have in the past.” Also, Apple now has 250 well-located retail stores, where 3.5 million people shop each week. Then there are its online efforts, such as how-to videos that accompany the introduction of new products to curious consumers.

I also wonder whether there is a far more practical reason for pulling out of Macworld. Rather than spend every December in a forced march to finish products and polish his presentation for the early January event, he and Apple’s employees may be able to actually enjoy the holiday season a bit. Let’s hope that’s the reason for Apple’s decision, and not anything to do with Jobs’ health.

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Reader Comments

John Atkinson

December 16, 2008 09:29 PM

Excellent point about the obvious ROI of Job's speech. I hope the pullout is not due to his health.

As an Apple developer, it is unfortunate that we'll lose an opportunity to meet with Apple employees face to face.

John Atkinson


December 17, 2008 01:17 AM

The pressure of any business to come up with an astounding preview once a year has finally caught up with the boomers that want to enjoy life...I am one of those who love the tech wonders revealed each year, but let's settle down and enjoy our families this time of year.


December 17, 2008 01:19 AM

Just because Jobs isn't keynote speaker doesn't mean he won't show up when Steve says "one more thing" with a new exciting project. It's hard to believe Apple would pass up an opportunity. This creates more anticipation, not less...


December 17, 2008 01:25 AM

I am very sad to hear that Apple feels it does not get enough ROI at Macworld. While Apple is able to host their own events very successfully, I feel that Macworld is really the opportunity for those third Party developers to really show their wares. This eco system of third party developers is part of what makes a Mac so great. I have to believe that this will hurt third party developers and eventually hurt the Mac user's experience. If their is no headliner Keynote, how many people and big time developers will show up. This is not the same as Apple pulling out of NAB or other trade shows where Apple is just one other big company, this is Macworld, there is no Macworld with out Apple.


December 17, 2008 01:30 AM

If no apple next year then WHY hold macworld at all?

Michael Pitts-Campbell

December 17, 2008 01:34 AM

What will they call the show, then: PCworld?


December 17, 2008 02:02 AM


If they state that they will continue to have "these events" as regularly in the future as they have in the past... when they do actually announce an "event", it will garner massive media attention, because the public will know Apple is going to be having big news when it comes around. Then, when they actually have the event it will garner more media attention for whatever is actually announced.

Seems like they're doubling their public awareness of new products for free.

Charles H. Townsend

December 17, 2008 02:08 AM

The non-appearance likely has more to do with what is happening in the economy and what will be happening to Apple shares ... One senses that there is a real 'bust' coming in the entire Tech sector ... a bust that will make the Dot Com fiasco seem like small potatoes ...

Charles H. Townsend

December 17, 2008 02:09 AM

The non-appearance likely has more to do with what is happening in the economy and what will be happening to Apple shares ... One senses that there is a real 'bust' coming in the entire Tech sector ... a bust that will make the Dot Com fiasco seem like small potatoes ...

Born In The USA

December 17, 2008 02:12 AM

Or, maybe this year and from now on Apple will spend its time, money and major January announcement power at CES, joining the rest of the human race in Las Vegas instead of undermining the industry with its annual San Francisco based distractions.


December 17, 2008 02:13 AM

um.. no big announcements? ive been holding my cash hoping for a new mac mini.. i'd hate to be forced to buy a PC as a result of a poor macworld show!


December 17, 2008 02:22 AM

Apple wants to release products on its own schedule, rather than on Macworld's schedule.


December 17, 2008 02:33 AM

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December 17, 2008 02:50 AM

250 stores, 3.5 million shoppers per week. If stores are open 7 days per week, 12 hours per day, isn't that over 166 shoppers per hour (every hour and every day) in each and every Apple store? Seems unlikely...


December 17, 2008 02:57 AM

Very good to hear useless macs go away from the face of this planet. Anything thats overpriced, overrated overhyped..

Anybody who hoards charges more for ("one arm and a leg")

Anybody who supports poor and needy are here to stay.

I am sorry to all those MAC fans, I hate to say this, most big enterprises are going towards the pricey is better trend..


December 17, 2008 02:57 AM

Clearly, the Expo was on the point of extinction already when half the exhibitors were devoted to iPod or iPhone skins. When was the last time that one of those third party developers introduced an exciting new software program at MacWorld? Ten years ago? More?


December 17, 2008 03:04 AM

Perhaps everything's already been invented? We have laptops and Itunes and the wheel and ac and Pepsi. What else do we need ;-)


December 17, 2008 03:07 AM

Recently, someone started a completely unfounded rumor about a cheap MacBook, and Apple's stock actually fell when the fictitious device didn't materialize. If I were Apple, that would be the last straw. The rumors have gotten so badly out of hand that no matter what Apple does at Macworld, it's a disappointment.

I think the Mac fanboys have themselves to blame for Apple's self-protective withdrawal from Macworld..


December 17, 2008 03:08 AM

This is a cut back. PR then marketing are the first to go. This is normal people.


December 17, 2008 03:13 AM

As Apple is known for (notorious for?) driving its employees rather hard, it's certainly not for concern that they enjoy the holidays that's causing them to pull out of MW.

I'm sure it has to do with Jobs' health. He hardly makes any public appearances. Apple is not commenting on the rumors. Were they not true, Apple, an expert in PR, would be rushing to get the word out. Their silence is deafening.

I find the claim that Apple does not get enough ROI out of MW to be ridiculous, to say the least.


December 17, 2008 03:54 AM

Wake up, World. Have you ever had to handle the logistics of doing a trade show, any trade show? It is a tedious, thankless, difficult, costly and frustrating arena to present the latest and greatest of a company's products. Trade shows are a giant waste of money in a world with instant world-wide communication.

Apple does not need Macworld. Macworld needs Apple. This does spell the end of Macworld and this is a good thing. These events are a waste of resources for the companies and a waste of money for the participants.

I stopped going to Macworld in Boston years ago even though I lived a half-mile away. With the internet, streaming video and the endless commentators on the Mac kingdom it has become incredibly easy to learn about the latest products and innovations from the comfort of my laptop without shelling out whatever amount of money the promoters of MacWorld demanded from me.

I do not miss the crowds. I do not miss the hype. I know Apple makes the best products. I do not need some dog and pony show to convince me to buy.

Apple gave up the floppy drive and many folks cried 'foul'. Apple is giving up the trade show and some will cry 'foul' but Apple is one of the few smart forward-thinking companies that recognizes that you do not keep doing something just because it has always been done.

Trade Shows are Dead. Long Live the Trade Show!

W F Posey

December 17, 2008 04:03 AM

Personally, I think Apple is getting out of the computer business. Macworld is essentially for people and developers who use actual computers. Judging by the market, and the many problems some people report with buggy, troubled desktops, Mac is loosing interest in the actual computer and is more invested in being an iPod and phone company. Even on the best Mac blogs and websites the vast majority of information is on these portable toys. Computer professionals see less and less information related to actual computers.MacWorld is usually all about computers and Apple is increasingly about everything but.

N. Ziemer

December 17, 2008 04:19 AM

If I were to venture a guess, I would take the pulling out of MacWorld as THE "one more thing" that is coming.

We all know that Apple has long been a trend setter and maybe they could be pulling out by not being "physically" there, but still there, nonetheless?

I've got a hunch that somehow Apple may be still there, just not in the way we've come to expect.

I also would hope that this wouldn't have anything to do with Mr. Jobs' health. But I wish the man good health and long life regardless. :)


December 17, 2008 04:50 AM

This is absolutely ridiculous. I can't imagine a better established, proven and positively hyped venue to showcase Steve's ideas, new concepts and innovations. You could say Macworld IS where Apple distinguished itself from competitors. It's a platform from which Apple's marketing engine launches new products; nicely tuned prerequisite to new innovations. And the boss decided not to show-up. Give me a break. Having said that, do you smell new iCar in the air....

Quicken kicked the bucket

December 17, 2008 04:59 AM

The big news this year for macs is the portable software being developed for the iPod and iPhone. Take for instance Quicken which never ran well on the mac, now is totally surpassed by the Application called MoneyWell ($40) and the portable iTunes app called QuickBank($2).

With MW you can download all your financial records with ease from even Canadian banks and with QB you can enter purchases while out shopping to then export directly into MW to reconcile, making keeping track of expenses a breeze.

MoneyWell and QuickBank portability and ease of use.

It's time MacWorld gave some room to promote the development of software for the mac as there really is a lot of good things happening. The iPod and iPhone are great gaming machines too!

Wasn't that the stronghold that promoted windoze all these years?

Not anymore!


December 17, 2008 05:01 AM

I think it is a good move.

There are already enough major trade shows to go around (CES, Mobile World Congress, CEBIT, etc.). Plus, they have all their stores for daily customer exposure to Apple and 3rd party products.

Add the occasional impromptu press conference, for major product announcements and you probably have the most efficient mix.

Singing Wolf

December 17, 2008 05:03 AM

Yikes! The sky is falling! The sky is falling! End of the world! Oh, Jesus, save us........from the freakin' idiots who behave as Uriah Heap's in their unctuous fawning of odd-Jobs and over ripe apples. Reality has finally become rooted in rational, synoptic coherency, and the little green worm has morphed into one fruit eating monster. One small bite for reality; one giant bite for Apple's core.

Blake Southwood

December 17, 2008 05:24 AM

It's so simple. Either way there is nothing compelling by Apple to announce and quite possibly development for new jazzier products are going slower than expected.

Also, as we all know Steve doesn't look well. He looks like he has AIDS in all honesty.


December 17, 2008 05:37 AM

I really doubt this is was done in the interest of ROI, but as a part of a grander strategy. It is better to stop that MacWorlds while they still attract pizzaz than to continue doing them while they dwindle to just another speech year over year.

Jon T

December 17, 2008 05:58 AM

Good for Apple. The problem with Macworld is the media. It is hyped way too much and so expectations to release the next iPhone-like revolution get's totally out of hand.

This move puts more power into the hands of Apple and takes it away from the uninformed guessers and scribblers.

The one fault of the net? It makes everyone try to announce the scoop before it's even happened...

Congratulations Apple on a ballsy -and totally correct- move.


December 17, 2008 06:47 AM

Apple disrespects it's customers.....again.

Yet they keep on coming back for more.

Thank you sir, may I have another?


December 17, 2008 06:58 AM

I think Jobs is becoming a liability to Apple, not because of his health but because he is Apple. Shareholders are pushing to diversify its PR. Apple is Jobs, and it shouldn't be.


December 17, 2008 07:18 AM

Um, It's called MacWorld, not AppleWorld.

They work hard on building a brand identity, and they want it to be based on the Apple name.

There is no MacPhone, MacTunes, MacLife... Apple clearly see the products of the future to be beyond Mac, although the Mac will most likely be the cornerstone of the company.

Who knows, maybe we'll see an AppleWorld Convention?!


December 17, 2008 07:19 AM

Come on? Did you really not see this coming? Did you really think that Jobs was going to continue tucking you into bed at night? Apple is running out of ideas, and they need to slow the release so they can bleed the consumer that much more by buying a 3rd gen ipod that is nothing more than a different color. Face it, you hopped on a band wagon of tree hugging junkies that do nothing but drool when Jobs has something to say.


December 17, 2008 07:51 AM

I think it is a good move. Apple will continue to do its world wide developer conferences, so you will have a chance to meet up with Apple's developers there.

As long as Apple holds road shows for new product launches, I will be happy.


December 17, 2008 07:51 AM

As times change, there are many things that have become anachronisms, such as trade shows, newspapers, conferences, and online forums.

Take out a piece of paper and make a list of all the problems with trade shows, and it's long. CES is so huge you only have the ability to make eye contact for a few seconds with 90% of the booths. The people that man the booths do not get to talk with the people that would make a difference to them, and on and on.

Online forums are simply a huge text-only room with everyone talking at once in a totally unorganized fashion. Worthless. Wikis are the way to go.

Who has the time to spend reading a whole newspaper making eye contact with articles that you aren't interested in and usually misrepresenting themselves with excessively brief titles and left with the feeling the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Even WWDC is an anachronism, only available to the privileged few who can afford to be at the right place at the right time, who already know the information is useful to them (too bad if you decided to develop for the iPhone 2 months after WWDC), and if you happen to register early enough to get in, and then there are too many sessions that you cannot attend, and the event has a sterile feeling. Even the video available afterwards is nothing more than a keynote slide show with audio. It's all wrong.

It's the end of the first decade of the 21st century. There are better ways of doing things. Forums should be self-organizing 3D spaces. Communications and education should be video-based utilizing the resources of Pixar with 3D explanations of software development. We are so stuck in old ways of [not] communicating with millions of people at once.

Mark Hernandez


December 17, 2008 07:58 AM

I think its a good idea.
mac sales are dropped by 1% so people can see what comes out in january before they buy maybe... not because of jobs

Jobs in not going to live forever.


December 17, 2008 08:39 AM

Blake Southwood said,
> Steve doesn't look well.
> He looks like he has AIDS in all honesty.

Jobs is so thin because
he had the Whipple procedure:

This is sufficient to explain his symptoms.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor nor have access to his
medical info.


December 17, 2008 08:40 AM

David…… Plouffed?
Come on, Campaign Manager to Barack Obama? The man who will, without a doubt, be referenced in history books and is the talk of people everywhere in the business and political world just plain forgot this detail?
The enormity of what has occurred is mind blowing. David Plouffe tentatively calls his book Audacity to Win as a reference to Obama’s The Audacity of Hope. Why would Mr. Plouffe release this to the associated press last week without first having purchased the name in its internet domain form?
Isn’t this, most certainly a case of you should “practice what you preach?”
I bought the domain this is where the debate begins! Was he Plouffed? Or did a small town girl force the “marketing guru” to change his book’s title?


December 17, 2008 09:21 AM

if apple does not care about macWorld then I do not care about apple. what other show should they care more about? it is not a wine expo and not an auto show. that's MACworld. I buy google phone for now.


December 17, 2008 09:24 AM

I agree with a statement that was made earlier about timing. Apple has become beholden to a once-a-year timetable to announce or debut new items....that is not Steve Jobs. I am surprised it lasted as long has it has considering he has always done things his way. Good for Apple for taking back the Apple attitude and way of doing things. Be pissed if you want but this is true Steve Jobs.


December 17, 2008 09:50 AM

To Mohnkhan:

Ok, is it really necessary to attempt to kick the Mac populace while we sit worried about one of the CREATORS of our beloved computers? That's just petty and mean - there are plenty of other forums that you can express your dislike of Apple Computers but as a response to an article about the possible health problems of a man who has changed the face of computing? That's really tasteless. It doesn't matter wether you're a Mac fan or a PC fan - show a little respect.

And yes, I do hope that Apple has reasons for this other than Job's health. I've been to MacWorld and it's incredible, I feel very lucky that I got to see a Keynote in person and even moreso now.

But seriosuly people - leave the MAc PC debate on the shelf, at least for the comments to this article. Frankly, the debate is old and a lot of us are sick of it.


December 17, 2008 10:13 AM

Have you ever been in an Apple store. Every time I have visited, even just to browse, every Genius and every sales support person has been busy with a customer with at least one or two in queue. That probably represents 50 to 60 people there. Plus all the folks browsing and checking out the iMacs, Macbooks and iPods adds probably another 40. So I don't think I have ever been in a store that hasn't had at least 100 customers in it. Considering that a point in time and doesn't represent the entire hour, it is very possible that a store has has 300 - 350 visitors during the busy hours of the day. Average that with the slow morning hours and it is very plausible to average 166 visitors per hour.

Vista Guy

December 17, 2008 10:44 AM

Who cares about Mac anyway?

An Apple fan

December 17, 2008 01:20 PM

Regarding the article:
I'd think that Apple isn't a company that runs on ROI as its primary criteria for projects. At the core, Apple was founded on changing the world, was it not?
On the other hand, this move would make a lot of sense if you consider Apple's recent hints at a successor for Steve. This would fit in reasonably if you consider the move as a transition process.

Regarding Mohnkhan's comments:
Although, Macs are high-priced, it doesn't mean that they are expensive. I've been a Mac-user for nearly ten years now. For what Macs offer its users, I'd say it's quite a worthwhile investment.
And regarding hoarding, Apple has contributed lasting changes to the world, more so than most other companies. So I'd say the money-in-question per-se is well allocated in the interests of propelling change and advancement of society.

Different people have different philosophies in doing business. Steve Jobs stated his quite clearly when he said "we just can't ship junk" (referring to less-than-top-quality products).
Apple is clearly a value-oriented/quality-oriented company, and to date has not been a patron of non-value-creating moves for additional profit or market share. That's just not what Apple is about (also stated by Jobs in the same Q&A session).

The Difference with Apple:
This maybe one of the key reasons why people just can't put a finger on what makes Apple so successful. You could probably say that Apple is an entrepreneurial company.
There's quite a significant difference between the definitions of an "entrepreneur" versus a "businessperson".

[Entrepreneurship, by definition, involves much passion for some thing or cause. It's not surprising for it to make less sense from a business perspective. However, it turns out that the successful "entrepreneurs" of this nature mostly end up creating value-oriented companies & no-BS companies, of which most people tend to like.]

Personal note to Mohnkhan:
I don't know your background, but the comment almost sounds like an angry consumer's rant with no background knowledge of what he/she is criticizing.
Macs may not be for everyone, but it is the preferable option for many people (i.e. creative/entertainment professionals). Plus, many changes initiated by Apple have benefited countless people over and over.

There is more than one way to do things well.
So please respect other people's preferences.

"Triumph of the Nerds" is a good documentary to see for background.
And search YouTube for "steve jobs: we don't ship junk" for the referenced clip.


December 17, 2008 03:11 PM

Apple is about as transparent as the government of North Korea. Anyway, be it for health reasons, or for some other reason, it gives the appearance that Jobs is on the way out.


December 17, 2008 04:53 PM

YES. Yes. You are all correct. Steve is dying. Steve Ballmer that is.
Have you him singing and dancing on stage lately?
Have you heard him breaking chairs lately?
Microsoft bought back 20,000,000,000 $ in shares last quarter.... Ballmer is dying.
My dog farted.... Ballmer is dying.

Hmmm, my point? Let it go already. Stock traitors have found its hard to make money when stock does not rise, so what to do???

Find a great company that is doing insanely great and start rumors about how its suddenly failing. Buy low. Wait for the world to get a little more sane and sell back at normal.

Start next rumor and begin cycle again. Although this action is criminal, the SEC under Pres. Bush just looks the other way, cause that is business the old way.

Time to start business, the right way.

Just a thought.


December 18, 2008 02:56 PM

If by chance Apple does have a big announcement, which is unlikely, then it will really show that there is something wrong with Steve. The same thing holds true if there is a big announcement later this year and it is not delivered by Steve then its time to worry about his health. Regardless Apple will be just fine.

Other than that, its business as usual. I go to Macworld frequently, but spend little to no time at the Apple booth. If I want to touch products I can go to the Apple store. If I want technical info then I go to the developers conference, and Apple recognizes that I am like everyone else, seeing their goodies there is not going to convince me to buy anything.

Additionally, MacWorld is like every other trade show in this economy, downsizing. Companies see the economy remaining depressed for a few years and sending people across the country for a small return on investment as a no win situation. The hey day of the big bright Macworld may be over, at least in the short run. The only way Apple will come back is if the timing of a big new technology warrants it. Till then Wall Street should welcome the news that Apple is being business like and prudent.


December 22, 2008 05:23 PM

Has anybody considered that Jobs just wants to retire? He's been a hard-chargin' baby-boomer for as long as I can remember, but maybe he wants to smell the roses?

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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