What does Apple's MacWorld departure say about future of trade shows?

What does Apple's MacWorld departure say about future of trade shows?

Summary: I had already scratched CES off of my January calendar but was starting to book meetings for MacWorld, leaving time open for the Steve Jobs keynote speech, of course. But now that Jobs is sending in a second-stringer for the big spotlight event, I'm starting to wonder if I should even bother to show up for the trade show.


I had already scratched CES off of my January calendar but was starting to book meetings for MacWorld, leaving time open for the Steve Jobs keynote speech, of course. Steve JobsBut now that Jobs is sending in a second-stringer for the big spotlight event, I'm starting to wonder if I should even bother to show up for the trade show. I suspect there won't be any real news there, seeing how the best that the Apple rumor mill has been able to round up is an iPhone Nano, new Mac Mini or a netbook. Without Steve Jobs and his "one more thing" at the keynote, it just seems like a waste. (photo credit: CNET)

Initially, I wondered if Steve Jobs' absence had anything to do with his health. Ever since Jobs appeared at a conference looking unusually thin and frail earlier this year, bloggers and analysts have been asking for a health update on Jobs, a pancreatic cancer survivor.

Previous coverage:

Apple says report of Steve Jobs heart attack is false Will Tim Cook be the next Steve Jobs? VIDEO: Is Steve Jobs slowly passing the baton? Bloomberg publishes Jobs obit but why?

But, when Apple dropped its bombshell announcement that Jobs would not deliver the keynote and that the company would not return to the annual trade show in 2010, I found myself thinking more about the ripple effect that would be created, not just for Macworld but for trade shows, in general - especially technology trade shows. In a very brief press release, the company summed it up best:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways. Apple has been steadily scaling back on trade shows in recent years, including NAB, Macworld New York, Macworld Tokyo and Apple Expo in Paris.

I hadn't really thought too much about it but it only makes sense that the Internet's next victim would be the trade show. Think about the outreach tools that companies have at their disposal these days. Webcasts have become online events where people from around the globe can attend without booking a flight, hotel room or restaurant reservations. Viral videos are being produced by companies to showcase their products and technologies in real-world environments. Brand names are creating loyal followings via "fan memberships" on social networking sites such as Facebook. And, increasingly, there are smaller intimate shows that cater to crowds with specific interests - conferences dealing with social networking, cloud computing, open source and more. Those shows reach the audiences they want to reach and the bank doesn't have to be broken to participate.

But what a devastating blow to local economies. Without Apple or Jobs, Macworld is pretty much a bust - and that means fewer people have reason to attend. That, in turn, means that hotel rooms are left empty, restaurants never start a waiting list, cab drivers keep circling around in search of a fare and even the bars might think twice before killing happy hour specials. Think I'm exaggerating? Try to find a hotel room in Las Vegas during CES week and you'll find plenty of choices - and some real bargains. Historically, Las Vegas hotels during CES are all but sold out by early November. This year, the Vegas economy will feel the pinch.

In previous years, one of my biggest reasons for attending CES was the Bill Gates keynote speech.  But this year, it's Steve Ballmer instead of Gates. And I don't know that there's really anything on the Microsoft radar that warrants a trek to Vegas - Windows 7 is still a year away and Windows Mobile is getting clobbered by Apple, RIM and Google. And if there's any real news out of CES, I'm sure I'll read about it - in real-time on blogs, Twitter or Facebook. But I don't need to be there.

Yes, I'll still be at Macworld - but not because it's a must-attend show. Apple and Jobs, within hours, pretty much killed that feeling. Instead, I'll go because Moscone Center is only a short walk from my San Francisco office. Otherwise, I would just feel guilty submitting an expense form for a trip like that - especially in this economy.

Topics: Windows, Apple, Collaboration, Operating Systems, Software, Social Enterprise

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Why does Steve Jobs/Apple Play these Dumb Games?

    By the way, Jobs and the rest of apple's board of directors ended up paying out $14 million in compensation for the stock options fraud so far. Most of it will go to lawyers.
    Why couldn't they come clean and pay up when they were confronted with it in the first place? They would have save MILLIONS, and a lot of embarrassement.
    Instead Apple & Jobs insist on continuing to play these dumb games.

    Believe it. It's a "security" issue. Steve Jobs and his gang have committed so many acts of perjury and fraud, that they need maximum security now in order to protect them from getting legally served with even more lawsuits.

    Even when he does get served by courts, they somehow weasel him out of it and he is able to somehow not show up to court and get away with it.

    On another note, I am flabergasted by the sheer number of computer illiterates still out there.

    People, Apple is just a marketing company and that's all.

    I am truly amazed that people buy these obsolete buggy iGarbage from apple...Hats off to their marketing department for conning and brainwashing so many idiots out there...But, I bought an HP iPaq for a couple of hundred dollars - it came with a phone, full featured GPS with voice directions, and oh yea a full Windows Mobile OS long before Crapple's iPhone ever existed.

    And why would anyone pay over $3000 for a crippled, obsolete-out-of the box Apple Mac OS X computer? I bought an HP pavillion laptop, fully loaded, with DVD/Blue Ray, Super Hi-res wide screen, 2 Gig RAM, HD Tuner, built-in web cam etc. etc. etc. for under $1000

    And Apple Mac OS X is based on FreeBSD, an open-source Unix look-alike, available FREE for the PC back in 1992, with a artsy-fartsy GUI. Whoopy Doo..

    It is too expensive, too buggy, and the only software available is a bunch of dinky puzzles written by 14 year olds. No engineering or scientific applications available for "Mac OS X"...

    Apple has a long history of fraud, racism and corruption...Steve Jobs and Nancy Heinen (and her shyster subordinates) are both knowing criminal participants in the stock options scam, and were caught trying to cover it up.

    They were caught red-handed in early 2006 when a former employee who was cheated out of all of his stock after being wrongfully dismissed, filed a lawsuit against Apple Con-puter.

    In short, dont waste your time and money on apple...

    PS: If Apple was supposed to be "invulnerable" to viruses, why are there so many security fixes being passed around? Even with all of Apple's virus and spyware vulnerabilities...which i'Tard would target a virus against an con-puter "OS" used by 2% of people out there?
    Steve Jobs leak leaked Macworld Keynote Phil Shiller
    • Are you feeling lonely?

      Do you need some hugging? Are you feeling left alone? If not, why are
      you writing stuff that makes you look stupid (at best ...)?

      Just one example: Your comment on security. If you discover that the
      hinges on your door are getting loose, do you wait until a burglar has
      dropped in until you fix them?

      Back to Apple, could it be that the absolute lack of viruses can be
      attributed in part to the fixes that close holes before they get exploited? Why do also Adobe, Oracle and other also have to fix their products?
    • Look at his name

      Steve Jobs cowers at what StevesNightmare, who, by all
      accounts, has never created, manufactured or even written
      anything of any value, has to say.

      Back to the story.

      The point of it is right on. Trade Shows need to reinvent
      themselves if they are going to survive. I've been to three
      Macworlds, the first was Steve Jobs' last Paris keynote
      address. The show gets stale after two times because the
      only real innovation is what Apple presents in new
      products and software and how unbelievable it is to see
      Microsoft sell people software that runs on Windows only.

      I could see smaller shows where small companies can
      exhibit over a weekend but the 'reely beeg shews', as Ed
      used say, will soon be a thing of the past.
    • This guy's been trolling other blogs too...

      ...best hit the banhammer button early here.
      Sleeper Service
  • If trade shows are dying...

    ...why is E3 scaling back up in 2009?
    Sleeper Service
  • RE: What does Apple's MacWorld departure say about future of trade shows?

    What doesnt change, dies. This includes trade shows. But to write a eulogy for the entire industry is very simplistic. Trade shows are extremely diverse and their relevance to markets they serve vary. More importantly, people get together for many reasons. Any face-to-face meeting, conference or trade show that does not facilitate conversations, business discussions, new ideas COMBINED with the convenience of seeing product/service offerings in a concentrated format will suffer.
  • RE: What does Apple's MacWorld departure say about future of trade shows?

    The value of trade shows has diminished to negative returns. In days past, order books were out and PO???s were signed. Now it???s ???My competition is there so I have to be there.??? ???My competition has a big booth; I have to have a bigger booth.??? Hopefully Job???s move will stop this trend of mutually assured waste so we can compete again on merit as opposed to showmanship.
    • Childs play.

      This no different from most people, your neighbor gets an SUV and you get a larger SUV and so on. This method of one up man ship or competition will lead to our total destruction if we don't stop this insanity if we all want to live in any civilized world.
      However, Apple at MacWorld has been at its core since the beginning so my thinking MacWorld may cease to exist in its current form. Apple may want to use other venues to announce products on it own timeline rather than at set show schedules so this maybe an advantage to Apple since Apple is not at the mercy of the show to push an product out.
  • RE: What does Apple's MacWorld departure say about future of trade shows?

    I would agree that it is overly simplistic to paint a broad brush across the industry. Having said that however, I believe that the future of trade shows will be much more driven by economics.

    In other industries such as medical devices, my area of expertise, attendance is down substantially and the number of vendors are as well. However, there will always be the need for them since upwards of 60% of all sales are directly related to the trade show.

    Most companies have cut down on the number of staff they send to represent them at the show and they have scaled down the size of their booth, etc. The cost of running and attending these shows has skyrocketed, especially when they are held in major cities.

    I just attended RSNA in Chicago and my cost for airfare, two nights in a hotel, local transport (much of which was provided by the conference at no cost), meals and tips, came to about $1,200. I was fortunate that my airfare was inexpensive as I was able to get a low fare on Southwest and live just outside one of their largest hubs.

    When you consider that the average airfare is more than double what I paid plus the average attendance of five nights, not two, the cost is closer to $2,500 for the average attendee. It is exceedingly difficult to justify that level of expense and that is just the travel cost. The actual conference itself plus books you buy and special sessions can add another $2,000.

    I am somewhat surprised that the IT industry has not attempted to create a virtual conference. I think it could be effectively managed and the cost should be substantially reduced. Of course for many people part of the allure is the opportunity to hobknob with colleagues and friends, see the sights, and visit local restaurants, etc. Nothing wrong with that, but again, in the current economy which appears to be our intermediate future, it requires new thinking.

    Any thoughts on how it could be approached and the best companies to make it happen?
  • RE: What does Apple's MacWorld departure say about future of trade shows?

    Not just trade shows but information/education sessions as well. Use of resources -- time, energy, and, of course, money -- is in a significant adjustment trend. With such dynamic virtual options, virtual trade shows as well as breakout sessions are poised for breakthrough growth.
  • RE: What does Apple's MacWorld departure say about future of trade shows?

    It???s been several days since the announcement that apple is pulling out of the convention. And the fact that Jobbs will not be giving the keynote speech leads me to believe that he will hand over the rains of CEO. When is does leave he will have turned around a lacking company with no direction in to a profit making organisation that has produce from cutting edge technology.

    Which leads me into an interesting question what now? What direction will the new head take in the market crisis? These questions will no doubt be asked over the next couple of weeks, month and years.
  • I small opportunity

    Will Jobs and Gates stepping down from their roles as "Nerd Celebrities", maybe there's an opportunity here for the next up-and-coming tech phenom? I mean really, so far there seems to be no "young visionary" in the pipeline that a company can rally around to build buzz for their brand? Or have tech companies moved beyond the "rock star" CEO? Are we in for a new era of "Gil Amelio" style corporate boredom?
  • UC and the Death of Tradeshows - The Unified-View

    It is interesting to see that Apple may be leading the exodus of big name sponsors from traditional, location-based, shared trade shows. It is consistent with how they jumped on the "smart phone" market to support consumer UC with their iPhone announcement. (They quickly followed up with additional capabilities for business users as well.)

    If you think about it, UC is all about supporting communication/information needs of individual users "anywhere, any time, anyhow." That includes person-to-person" contacts as well as information delivery to people from business process applications.

    The "anywhere" is perhaps the biggest change Mobile UC brings to both personal and business communications, because it means that people don't have to be in an "office" or at "home" or at a particular location to do their jobs, get information, or make contact with people in any modality they wish.

    The "anytime" factor, however, must still be manageable, because people don't have unlimited time and have different individual priorities and deadlines to meet.That makes presence-based "availability" and "accessibility" key factors for real-time contacts in the UC game.

    So, what are trade shows or conferences all about anyway? A place to make contacts and get information! Well, guess what? They just don't always have to be location-based activities any more. The old ploy of time-consuming travel to conferences at enticing, but expensive, plush resorts is going to fade away, along with overloading conferences with so many concurrent presentations and events to maximize audience size, that it impossible to do everything efficiently anyway.

    You might say conferences are a way to participate in a discussion or round table. Well, there too, it doesn't mean you have to be physically present to do so. In fact, real-time discussions may be less useful than threaded exchanges to allow more thoughtful interactions at the convenience of all interested individual participants.

    Perhaps the only justification for location-based presence is where there has to be physical hands-on to a product, say for an automobile. Otherwise, both person-to-person contacts, information access, and demonstrations of business process applications can all be done on an individually personalized basis, remotely, and at any time that is convenient for the customer.

    I personally started to add "virtual" sessions to existing conferences back in 1995. This allowed remote speakers and audience members to participate selectively in real-time. In one event, I had only 20 people in the room including a panel of speakers, while over 300 were conferenced in. (Today, that's no big deal!)

    Recording these virtual activities enable access to such events after the fact. The bottom line is that "virtual" online sessions expand the scope of participation significantly and at much less cost.

    UC technology include real time voice and video conferencing applications, in addition to person-to-person contacts in any mode required by the individual communicants. By scheduling such events, you can maximize real-time participation and interactions from any location. However, when does it really have to be real time when people are now accessible all the time with asynchronous communications (messaging) and "click-to-contact" for any real time needs?

    With the web, our increasingly global environment and mobile/portable devices, many location-based business activities are diminishing, e.g., shopping, education and training, customer service, information access, office work, socializing, business collaboration, etc., so it should be obvious why the time and costs of location-based conferences and trade shows will also succumb to the flexibility of "virtual" online events.

    As pointed out about Apple, "virtual" shows don't really have to be shared with anyone else, eliminating the "overloaded" schedules that shared-show producers create to maximize physical attendance. (I found that to still be a problem with some new online shared trade shows.) So, although there will still be location-based events, they can still maximize their potential audience by making them "virtual" too. As proven by Google, advertising on the web is more powerful and responsive than just location-based signage.

    So, the power of the web, mobility, and UC will be driving the next generation of conferences and trade shows in my book.