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A fan's notes: Macworld without Apple

What's a Macworld keynote without Steve Jobs?

December 17, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Like most Mac fans, the news that Apple is pulling out of the big Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco struck me like a sucker punch. I'm not sure what's more shocking: the idea that Apple CEO Steve Jobs won't be giving the annual keynote or the fact that Apple is pulling out of all future Macworlds after 2009.

Over the past decade and a half, I've attended numerous expos and keynotes, whether in San Francisco, Boston or New York. The experience was always unique as both a Mac user and a journalist covering technology. There's truly nothing like a Steve Jobs keynote: For those of us in the audience, the drama and excitement has always been palpable -- from the time admission lines form early in the morning to the moment we're all let in, and from the time Jobs takes the stage to the moment he utters those three words: "One more thing."

The dramatic keynote is something Jobs brought to Macworld when he returned to Apple in the late 1990s. They were major media events that everyone wanted to witness or cover firsthand, attracting a rare mix of mainstream reporters, Mac writers and bloggers -- many of whom I wouldn't have met otherwise. The keynotes transformed Macworld from a trade show into a worldwide media event.

In recent years, however, Apple has become adept at creating its own media circus, without the need for an outside organizer like IDG World Expos, which produces the Macworld Conference & Expo. Apple's town hall events, with their select media invitations, now draw much the same attention once limited to the Macworld keynote. Since Apple has complete control over its events -- and can host them at a fraction of the cost of anchoring a trade show -- it's easy to see Apple's logic in backing out of Macworld after next month's show, which runs Jan. 5-9.

More than just a keynote

The pullout has been coming ever since Jobs started comparing traffic through Apple's retail stores to the number of Macworld attendees. That said, Macworld has always been much more than an Apple retail experience and something beyond just a showcase for a Jobs keynote. It has been an international event at which Mac professionals, enthusiasts and countless vendors can meet and learn from one another -- and from a select group of Mac experts on hand at the conference.

Indeed, Macworld has been an annual training event for many companies. Diverse programs and workshops have covered a range of topics, with Mac IT tracks providing some of the most comprehensive Mac-centric training outside Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference. It has invariably been a great training opportunity -- one that's often been overshadowed by the focus on the keynote and the myriad announcements from other vendors at the show.

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