Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Apple at Expo: What went wrong?

At the same time, Apple was toning its product-announcement muscles in other areas. The keynote address at Apple's once-sleepy developer conference suddenly became a hot ticket. And Apple began making more and more major announcements at Apple-controlled media events, not only at the Apple campus, but at Moscone West in San Francisco, at the Yerba Buena Theater in San Francisco, and even at the California Theater in San Jose.

Those events were timed by Apple, controlled by Apple, and attended only by Apple's invited guests—VIPs, members of the media, analysts, and Apple employees. The public couldn't get in, and there was no intermediary like IDG World Expo to get in the way. But I think most important was the timing—Apple could announce products when it damn well wanted to, rather than being forced to adhere to a trade-show calendar that's usually set years in advance.

There were more signs of Apple's disinterest in Macworld Expo as a showcase. For years now at Apple keynotes, in its quarterly financial calls with analysts, and even in its press material, Apple has used one event as a benchmark for the number of customers to pass through the doors of its many retail stores: Macworld Expo. (In 2005's Macworld Expo Keynote Jobs applauded the Apple retail stores for hosting "20 Macworld Expos worth of visitors" per week.) The clear signal: "When our retail stores reach so many people, what's the need for a trade show?"

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