The news that Apple is not going to be at Macworld 2010—or any future Macworld expo—may have shocked some, but I wasn’t that surprised. That Apple made no attempt at attendance back at London’s MacExpo 2007 event may have been the writing on the wall. Sure, you may say, it’s London, but this is one of Apple’s biggest territories, and Leopard was released on the Friday of the Expo, November 26. To not have Apple show up felt somewhat odd, at least to this Mac user. Back then, the word on the floor was that Apple now had a bricks and mortar presence in the UK, and no longer needed an event like MacExpo to show their wares. They could have an “expo” every day in one of their UK stores.

What did the organizers do? They rejigged “MacExpo” into “MacLiveExpo.” Then for 2008, they renamed it “Creative Pro Expo in association with MacLiveExpo and Linux Live Expo.” I haven’t seen any reports from the 2008 event in London so can’t gauge what the attendance figures were like. Is this a portent of things to come with Macworld Expo in the U.S.?

Apple surely has stepped back and looked hard at what the Expo means to the company. The costs of the floorspace must be large, plus the cost of building the booth and providing the manpower required for the four days of the event. As is obvious, the company doesn’t need all of that to draw cameras for its announcements. Earlier news that Belkin changed its approach to the event is also interesting. Belkin had a pretty big presence on the floor, plus a second floor ‘loft’ space for meetings. This year, the company is absent from the exhibit hall. Judging from the list of other exhibitors, Belkin isn’t the only company that sees Macworld—perhaps all trade shows—as a poor investment.

At the London event in 2007, there were gaps in the floor where companies had pulled out at the last moment. We’ve seen a few vacancies at past shows, but will there be bigger gaps now in the twin halls of Moscone? Will the exodus begin the year that Jobs will not be giving the Keynote? And will IDG be giving away booth space for free or something close, to unknown people who would never be able to afford their prices in a normal year, just to maintain an impression of a popular event? There is already evidence that such is the case; little dots on the show floor map suggest that anyone with a web site and delusions of grandeur can now claim to have a “booth” at Macworld.

Unfortunately, finding the answers in this case will be slightly more than the cost of a day return train ticket into London. For many people attending the San Francisco event, there’s a long journey ahead. For myself, it is an 11-hour flight, parking for 9 days, hotel rooms for the week and cash for beer, err, food. I was already questioning attending this year’s show before yesterday’s announcements; will it be worth bothering when the Expo has nothing from Apple? Especially given Apple’s bizarre, seemingly spiteful way of counter-programming its announcements directly from Cupertino on the very days of the Apple events it doesn’t attend? The message seems to be simple: feel free to go to the Expo, but the real news will be on your computer for free.

Given the costs involved in getting to San Francisco, the state of the economy, and what I’ve already seen happen at both the London and Paris Apple events, it looks like my future travel plans won’t likely involve Macworld. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see it become a purely West Coast ‘special’ attended by folk living within reasonable distances. But then, there are other small events like that, as well. Perhaps we’ll see the reintroduction of an East Coast expo. Or perhaps it will all just go away.

So many questions and so many different answers have been generated by this news, none ultimately satisfying, or conclusive. The future is wide open, but seemingly dimmer today. As the Bob Dylan song goes, “For the times, they are a-changin’…”


Vini, Vidi, Velcro. I came, I saw, I stuck around...