Minority Report: Why is Apple skipping Macworld?

Don't panic

Don't panic

The iconic Macworld event has been the highlight of Apple's year. So why are they stepping away from it? Seb Janacek has some theories.

Ever had a moment where you're cruising down the motorway in fifth gear, decide to drop it into fourth and accidentally hit the brake instead of the clutch?

That was like how much of the Mac universe felt last month when Apple announced that the January Macworld would be the last one for the company.

To add insult to injury, the company also announced that the keynote, traditionally a Steve Jobs affair, would instead be filled by the avuncular but ever-so-slightly tedious Phil Schiller, Apple's head of product marketing. No offence, Phil.

The Mac press and blogosphere exploded with predictions that the news meant CEO Steve Jobs was too ill to perform the two-hour presentation. Or, alternatively, that he was stepping down as CEO altogether and the shift in management power was already underway within the Cupertino giant.

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One news organisation even posited the idea that the 'one more thing' announcement Jobs used to save until last could still be delivered by him this year and not by the lovable sidekick. Surely the whole Macworld magic act couldn't be cancelled, could it?

Think again.

The decision marks many things - but no doom and gloom, as far as I'm concerned.

It could be the end of the line for the relationship between Apple and IDG, the event organiser, which has been on rocky ground for many years.

As for Jobs' health, though he has just admitted to suffering from a hormone imbalance that has caused him to lose weight, he is staying on as CEO.

Maybe this is Apple doing what it does best - changing the rules again.

Apple's DNA has changed in the last five or six years. The company is increasingly moving away from its core Mac business. In fact, the Mac represents only one of Apple's three main markets, the others being music, iPods and the iPhone.

Essentially it's metamorphosed into a consumer electronics company. The timing of the Macworld event, two to three weeks after Christmas, is hardly ideal for a consumer electronics company. It gives competitors a whole year to catch-up in time for next Christmas.

Apple may feel that Macworld has served its purpose over the last decade or so since Jobs returned to the helm. It has come to the point where, unless an epoch-shattering product was announced during Jobs' keynote, investors and, in particular analysts, wept rivers of blood.

Even Apple fans must admit the keynotes have become somewhat predictable - as highlighted by the playing of Keynote Bingo, a grid containing common keynote words and phrases. Plus most 'secrets' about Apple kit are leaked on dozens of sites weeks before the launch. So, one might ask, why do they need the event?

The reason for the pulling out may be due to the fact Macworld had become predictable and that hardly matches Apple's philosophy.

Apple has a history of reinventing everything, why not itself?

Increasingly in recent years it's been holding product launches on the Apple campus. The September iPod announcements have become an institution and its Worldwide Developer Conferences in June have become focused around software and updates.

So what to expect at this final Macworld?

New iMacs look likely. News of an updated Mac Mini is years overdue and the announcement of a release date for Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) also seems to be on the cards.

One thing is for certain - it won't be the same without Steve.