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Opinion: Apple at the Expo: What went wrong?

The show is being treated 'like a piece of garbage,' says Macworld's Jason Snell

By Jason Snell
December 16, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Macworld - Tuesday's news that Apple had announced that Steve Jobs wouldn't be appearing at Macworld Expo and that the company would stop exhibiting at the show after 2009 came as a shock. I'm stunned that Apple has taken a 25-year-old event that has been the single best meeting place for the entire community of users and vendors of Apple-related products and treated it like a piece of garbage stuck to the bottom of its shoe. But I'm not really surprised: Apple has been leading up to this moment for a long time now.

(Before I continue, a bit of disclosure. The company that I work for, Mac Publishing, does not run Macworld Expo. The company that runs Macworld Expo is IDG World Expo, a separate company that shares the Macworld brand name with Mac Publishing and shares the same corporate parent -- International Data Group. IDG's corporate structure splits different businesses into different companies, each with its own budgets and management teams. So while I'm the editor of Macworld, my business doesn't actually receive any money from the operations of Macworld Expo and isn't judged by the financial results of Macworld Expo. However, the owner of my business is the owner of its business, so we're cousins in the same corporate family.)

The timing of the announcement stinks. It's three weeks before the Expo keynote, and now Apple has decided to announce its plans not just for the keynote, but for the 2010 show? Why now? My guess is that the first announcement required the second. Imagine if Apple merely announced that Steve Jobs wouldn't be appearing at Macworld Expo. Immediately, the Steve-Jobs-health speculation machine would whip into action. Jobs not appearing at Macworld Expo would be used as fodder to fuel a million different pieces wondering about Apple's CEO.

The announcement of Apple's "final appearance" in 2009 dulls that speculation a little bit. It won't go away -- if you picked "three" in the pool to see how many comments it would take for someone in our story thread to speculate about Steve Jobs' health, you win -- but in making that second announcement, Apple has changed the story from one about Steve Jobs' non-appearance into one about the death of Macworld Expo.

I don't know anything about Steve Jobs' health. And I really do hate idle speculation about the health of a human being. (Though I do believe that if he's terminally ill, the shareholders ought to be informed. Otherwise, it's nobody's business but his own.) Who knows the real reason for the exit of Jobs from the keynote? There are a nearly unlimited number of reasons that don't involve the man's medical history. Maybe there simply weren't any Earth-shattering products ready. Maybe someone at IDG offended someone at Apple. Maybe a product that was intended for release at the Expo has been delayed, either for technical reasons or because today's economy would make it a bad time to launch a new product.

Reprinted with permission from Macworld.com. Story copyright 2012 Mac Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.
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