The web is ablaze with the news that Apple are pulling out of the Macworld trade show and that the 2009 event will be its last. Notwithstanding the fact that this has been a very long tradition started in 1985, I wonder why it didn’t actually happen sooner.
Back in the early days, it made a lot of sense to have shows such as Macworld: getting information from knowledgeable people was hard to come by and since Mac users were very much in the minority, it was good to meet up with people who shared the same passion.
But the world has changed a lot since then. Apple is no longer the beleaguered company it was back in the 90s: thanks to the iPod, it has become a powerful and successful consumer brand; its retail stores are an astounding success and bring knowledge of Macs to many new and potential customers who might otherwise never have known that an alternative computing platform exists; and of course the internet has made information gathering a much simpler process than it was in the past.
As a result, trade shows have become less and less relevant. Apple already pulled out of the July Macworld event when the organisers decided to move from New York to Boston. Despite assurances to the contrary, that Summer event died shortly afterwards. Both Apple and Avid decided not to attend NAB last year which shocked a lot of people back then, but the fact remains: trade shows are expensive events and that money can be better spent elsewhere since there are many new ways to “get the word out”.
Despite its apparent success, the January Macworld event must have been on life support for a while as far as Apple was concerned: having a major event right after the Christmas buying season must always have been odd for a consumer-focused company. How many people held out on purchases knowing Macworld was just around the corner, and worse, how many more got disappointed that their new acquisition became obsolete so fast after Santa dropped them down the chimney?
Without Macworld, Apple will probably do even better: they’ll be able to announce new products when it suits them and not have to rush one or delay another to meet a schedule that is out of their control. In fact they’ve been doing just that recently with many Special Events peppered throughout the year. This proved ideal for Apple: they could release products at a time of their choosing and they still got tons of attention and press time.
The hard core fans will most likely mourn the loss of a great meeting place, but – perhaps sadly – Apple’s customers have changed over the years and that element is now far from the majority. If all you want is to know what new products will be announced at Macworld, going there hasn’t been necessary for years: just start up your computer and read the announcements as they happen from one of many Mac news sites, wait a bit to watch the QuickTime stream of the event or wait a little longer to download it to your iPod. Forums are available to discuss these events where you can comment, vent or learn. There is so much available online that you’d feel as if you’d been to the trade show yourself… with the added bonus of not having polluted the planet nearly as much in order to get there.
So thanks a lot Macworld for fanning the flames in the early years, but your job is done now. It’s time to mourn and move on to a bigger brighter future with more announcements throughout the year rather than one set at the worst possible time.