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The End of Macworld Expo Amid New Concerns Over Jobs’ Health

All right, so if I heard someone tell me that Steve Jobs not only wasn’t going to deliver his famous keynote at the next Macworld Expo and that Apple itself would pull out of the event after 2009, I would tell them they were probably drinking too much Kool-Aid.

Yet, that’s precisely the news that was delivered by Apple this week, along with a refusal to comment upon the health of Steve Jobs.

Officially Apple says: “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.”

You can also bet that, without Apple’s participation, the final Macworld Expo on the planet is officially on life support, although the executives who run the event are attempting to convince us that they intend to persevere with or without the company on which the whole shebang is focused.

Remember, for example, when IDG attempted to hold a Macworld Expo in Boston sans Apple. You know how long that lasted.

So what’s going on here, really? Did Steve Jobs have some serious disagreement with IDG and, in a hissy fit, decide to end the company’s participation?

As much as the mercurial Jobs might deserve the reputation of being easy to display anger, his tenure as CEO has shown that he moves with careful thought and deliberate speed. Apple doesn’t just make decisions that result from any single person’s emotions, but on the basis of carefully considered strategies.

As Apple has already said, this wholesale scaling back of participation in trade shows is part and parcel of where the company has moved in recent years. Regardless of what you might think as to whether Jobs is physically capable of delivering a keynote next month, the event itself has simply become insignificant to Apple as part of their overall marketing strategy.

More to the point, the world has changed. Mac users are no longer a tiny insular group of devotees, but comprise millions of people from all walks of life around the world. Indeed, when iPod sales first exceeded 100 million.

The report the other day that the majority of businesses are opening their doors to Macs clearly indicates Apple has become a mainstream manufacturer of consumer electronics products. In addition, with extensive mainstream media coverage and a growing retail chain, Apple is right to say that they don’t need a trade show to reach their customer base.

That may also be the real reason why Adobe pulled out of the Expo. That company’s sales figures remain impressive, so clearly it’s not a matter of money.

As far as Apple is concerned, I suspect that the WWDC, an event strictly catering to the developer community, will continue. This is an important way to evangelize programmers to build products for Apple, an also to deliver the information they need about new operating systems and development tools.

Indeed, you’ll probably still see a one and only keynote from a key Apple executive, probably Jobs assuming he remains healthy. For now, I have no real concerns about that, actually, although his decision to pull out of the Expo keynote has fueled the fires all over again.

From here, you can expect pretty much all new Apple product announcements to arrive in the form of press releases or special events tailored to the media, to garner as much coverage as possible. Of course, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on catchy TV ads and multipage spreads in newspapers and magazines doesn’t hurt.

After all, you don’t see a Sony Expo or a Samsung Expo, right?

With the expected departure of Macworld Expo, however, I have to tell you that I will miss the event. You see, at its heyday, we Mac users felt we were all special, having adopted the personal computer for the rest of us, the best one on the planet. It was also a place to network with like-minded people, and play with the latest toys not just from Apple but a host of other companies.

Over the years, we all wished that our friends and business associates would experience the same euphoria and switch to the Mac as well. Indeed, that has happened over and over again in recent years, and I encounter few people these days who aren’t seriously considering a Mac for their next personal computer purchase. The surveys have shown the very same thing.

But even if the Expo continues in a scaled down fashion for a while, it will no longer be the same. That’s also true about the “typical” Mac user.