Join the dots: Apple dumps Macworld, no Steve-note

Shock news for Apple watchers yesterday when the company confirmed Macworld 2009 in San Francisco next month will be the last time the company takes part in the show.

Apple also frightened some on news that senior VP of worldwide product marketing, Phil Schiller, will deliver the keynote speech at the event, replacing CEO Steve Jobs who won’t be offering a keynote at the show.

In many ways it’s the end of an era. Apple has been working with show organisers, IDG World Expo, for many years, but the decision to withdraw from the event follows a set sequence of events.

At one stage, Apple was involved with such events in Japan, Europe, and two in the US, one in New York, the other in San Francisco. Apple ceased to participate in the Japanese show many years ago, and also resisted an attempt by IDG to transport the New York show to its original home in Boston.

It’s highly possible Apple also sees its open support of an event called Macworld as lending too much credibility to the magazine brand of the same name.

Perhaps most noteworthy is news Jobs won’t be delivering the keynote speech, sparking a wave of speculation as to the health of the industry innovator who suffered pancreatic cancer in 2004.

Apple has since insisted there’s no problems with the health of Jobs, but his fluctuating appearance at various live events has generated concern he may be suffering poor health. At present, Apple’s remaining silent on this matter, but his non-appearance means some industry watchers expect he will begin to withdraw from leadership of the company he co-founded in the coming year.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said shows like Macworld were no longer relevant. “Apple is steadily scaling back on trade shows and in recent years is reaching more people in more ways than ever before,” he told BBC News.

“Every week 3.5 million people visit our retail stores. And like many companies, trade shows are a minor part of how Apple reaches its customers.”

The company now also invests in its own special launch events like the September iPod launch “seen by millions of people on the internet”, the spokesman said.

Apple is renowned for desiring control of the whole experience, including trade shows and special events. With the Macworld magazine brand claiming to be the world’s most read such title, has the company lost patience with IDG at a senior corporate level?

I have no idea, but I suspect Apple is quietly moving away from the notion of ‘church of Mac’ as it moves to pursue wider market share.

One thing is clear, though – with Schiller delivering the keynote and a recession threatening to topple many economies, IDG World Expo will face challenges shifting any remaining unsold tickets for Macworld Expo 2009.

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