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Can Macworld Expo survive without Apple?

Yesterday's earth-shattering announcement that Apple will abruptly stop exhibiting at Macworld Expo after January's event sent shockwaves through the Mac community. After 25 years of anchoring the exhibit-hall with its massive booth and kicking off the event with a keynote address that people would literally wait in line for 24 hours to see, Apple is dumping the Expo like a MacBook with a bad RAM slot.

Can Macworld Expo survive without Apple?

Yesterday's earth-shattering announcement that Apple will abruptly stop exhibiting at Macworld Expo after January's event sent shockwaves through the Mac community. After 25 years of anchoring the exhibit-hall with its massive booth and kicking off the event with a keynote address that people would literally wait in line for 24 hours to see, Apple is dumping the Expo like a MacBook with a bad RAM slot.

The decision, while shocking, isn't entirely unexpected. Apple noted in their press release that the company has been steadily scaling back on trade shows in recent years, including NAB, Macworld New York, Macworld Tokyo and Apple Expo in Paris. It's easy to see the business decision to bail on Macworld Expo, which Rob Griffiths deftly explains:

As a business person, I think I completely understand Apple’s decision—not being tied to a huge annual event, occurring just after the Christmas buying season, is a good thing. Not spending a small fortune on everything involved in participating in a huge trade show is a good thing. Having more flexibility in releasing products whenever you want to is a good thing. Not having to come up with One More Thing every year is a good thing. So really, I get it; it makes perfect business sense.

I'm left to wonder if the SuperBowl of Macdom can survive without its star attraction.

Paul Kent, vice president and general manager of IDG World Expo, put the best possible spin on the gut wrenching news, committing to putting on another show at the Moscone Center in 2010. Adding "We look forward to many successful years of Macworld to come." But that's what he's supposed to say.

Apple's pull-out from Macworld Expo has to be hitting its exhibitors even harder. The high price of exhibiting at trade shows is getting harder and harder to justify in our tough economic times, but like Christmas itself, many companies, like parents "find a way" to make it happen year after year. If Expo stalwarts like Adobe, Belkin and Seagate pulled out of the 2009 Macworld Expo before Apple made their announcement, what will the other exhibitors do with their hard earned trade show dollars next year? It's tough to say, but it certainly doesn't bode well for the future of the event.

Will Macworld Expo live on?