On the Future of Macworld



There is quite a stir in the Mac blogosphere the last few days over the future of Macworld Conference and Expo. Some knowledgeable commentators, such as Jim Dalrymple and Steve Sande have written it is likely Macworld 2010 will be the last. I disagree. Here is why.


No Apple ≠ No Macworld

I have never spoken to a single attendee who said the highlight of their Macworld visit was the Apple booth. While it is very nice to get your hands on Apple devices on the Macworld show floor, it is hardly the draw. I will drive by three Apple stores full of shiny new macs on my way to the Airport when I go to Macworld next month.

Likewise goes for the Apple Keynote. Steve Jobs has given some truly remarkable Keynotes at Macworlds past. He is an extraordinary showman and Apple has made some fantastic products. However, a lot of times Steve did not climb on stage with much ammunition and the Keynotes were really not that interesting despite his super-human presentation skills. Think about it. How much were you “blown away” by the Apple TV refresh of 2008 or the iLife introduction in 2005? Even last year Phil Schiller had to work really hard to make iWork.com more than a snoozefest. More to the point, of the thousands and thousands of people who attend Macworld, how many actually got in to see the Apple Keynote? A small percentage.

I still find Apple’s withdrawal baffling. The people who attend Macworld are the passionate bloggers, power users, and programmers that make the Mac special. They are the sharp end of the stick. While I appreciate that a business argument can be made to cut costs, Apple’s quarterly profits are measured in the billions and supporting its developers and most avid users seems a very worthwhile investment.

Regardless, Macworld can get by just fine without Apple. In lieu of a large Keynote for a select audience, IDG has put together a series of featured speakers that are all both knowledgeable and entertaining. Watching people like David Pogue, Andy Ihnatko and John Gruber will be far more entertaining and educational than hearing someone from Apple prattle on about the latest menu item in iPhoto.


IDG Is Listening

I was in attendance at the Macworld town hall meeting last year. There wasn’t a seat in the place and people were lining the walls, two or three deep in some places. Many ideas were proposed and several of them (like moving the date to February) were implemented this year. Some critics have argued IDG dropped the ball by not moving the expo to a different town. I would speculate that a place like the Moscone Center is booked years in advance and IDG already had contractual obligations for 2010. Perhaps in future years the Expo will move. Either way, I’ve had some inside exposure to the Macworld planning and can report that the people behind it are extremely passionate about making it the best show possible and are looking very closely at every suggestion, the wacky and brilliant alike.


Don’t Forget the Conference

Macworld is a lot more than a group of vendors and software developers. It also includes a world class conference where users and professionals can learn a lot about their Macs and how to use them. At the conference you can become a networking and security expert, an Applescript guru, or just maybe a more savvy Mac user. Every year, IDG assembles an all-star cast of instructors and attendees can learn a great deal on any of the conference tracks.


There is No Substitute

There is an argument that if Macworld were to disappear, there would be no real loss to the Mac community. I couldn’t disagree more. Macworld is a special place. While local user groups are nice and the internet community is a great resource, neither can hold a candle to the flesh and bones gathering of the true believers. 

Macworld is about users and everyone there is a zealot. Nowhere else in the entire world can you look at the guy in front of you in the sandwich line, ask him how to zip a file in Applescript, and receive a prompt, if not concise, answer that is spot on. The concentration of Mac geekiness in the room is palpable and, if you have experienced it, unforgettable. It is a communal experience that, if lost, will not be replaced. This point also goes toward the issue of the decline of trade shows. Macworld is more than a trade show.


 “Everything changes, nothing remains without change.”

  -The Buddha


An Opportunity Exists

Without being tied to Apple’s presence, Macworld could very likely evolve into something even more useful to Mac users, developers, and professionals. Regardless, declaring it dead a month before it even begins defies logic. There will be a different vibe at Macworld this year. As Buddha says, things change. There are a lot of very smart people working hard to make this change for the better. Who is to say they won’t succeed?