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Macworld Expo is Dead: Long Live the Macworld Expo

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banner-macworld-logoA Macworld Expo without Apple (s aapl) is like ordering a decaf, non-fat latte – what’s the point? This is old news, right? Not really. For many, this time of year is when the discussion about going to Macworld begins. IDG has already started some of its marketing push. Will Macworld 2010 be a ghost town, or will it be the best Macworld ever?

Macworld was in intensive care in 2008 and Apple’s decision to not exhibit in the future killed it, right? Maybe not. Macworld may end up stronger than ever. It reminds me of the classic science fiction plot where the main character goes through some strange metamorphosis on his deathbed (Doctor Who anyone?).

The Big Squeeze

My first Macworld was 1995. The clone wars were about to begin, but it was still Apple’s show. I had an absolute blast, and it wasn’t just because Sandra Bullock was filming “The Net” on the show floor. Back then there were detailed product demos and face time with a vendor’s sales and support team. Schwag bags were so big I’d have to ship a separate box back to Kansas.

As time marched on, smaller vendors were squeezed out by the big shots. Just like in any business, big national chains increased costs and make it more expensive for the little guys. Eventually, vendors stopped sending top personnel and often just hired warm bodies to staff their booths.

After over a decade of attendance, I decided in 2008 to pack it in. Too many exhibitors were doing “engineering via PowerPoint,” showing off screenshots and mockups of future products in lieu of real demos. Quicken Financial Life is still M.I.A. Any word on NightHawk? When I asked an exhibitor a moderately difficult question I was simply handed a card and told to call some support or sales number, or pointed towards the FAQ on their website. Furthermore, the show’s emphasis on Mac hardware and software had been overwhelmed by a preponderance of laptop and iPod cases and sometimes seemed to be more of a fashion show than a technical conference.

As a press person, qualifying for passes became difficult as the show management became overly bureaucratic. Many attendees and exhibitors hated the event’s timing, right after the holidays and New Year. After the second day in 2008, I decided it would be my last Macworld due to the increased hassle and decreased value. Apparently Steve Jobs agreed with me and took a pass on 2009, and then Apple soon followed suit.

Better, Faster, Stronger

With Macworld declared dead, IDG can take the opportunity to completely upgrade the event. They can rebuild it. They have the technology. Better than it was before. Better, stronger, faster. Now instead of the beginning of January, the Expo takes place in February. This gives all of us time to breathe after the first of the year and the busy holiday season. Additionally, the expo is at the end of the week and includes a weekend day.

Better hours will attract the casual Mac user who wouldn’t necessarily take time off from work to attend, but who simply wants to learn about new Mac products. These are the people who go to the Apple store “just to browse.” Registration is currently free for an exhibit-only pass thereby encourage those window shoppers (not to be confused with Windows shoppers). IDG is also focusing on attracting more small and independent developers who had been priced out of previous Expos. These are all very smart moves by IDG and will greatly increase the show’s value.

I’m psyched to attend in 2010. I’ll have plenty of time to recover from the holiday rush. I’ll attend on Saturday so I won’t be missing as much work. The outreach to small and independent developers will act as a tonic to boost the show’s technical and Mac-focused content. I’ve always loved the developer pavilion and am glad to see this concept extended. Not only is the person working these smaller booths the sales agent, but he or she may also be the developer! Want a feature in the program? Just ask and they’ll try and accommodate you. Like a rainforest, removing a couple big trees lets the underbrush grow and flourish.

Will attendance increase in 2010? I predict it will, and I plan to be part of this. Are you attending? Exhibiting? Thinking about it?

8 Responses to “Macworld Expo is Dead: Long Live the Macworld Expo”

  1. I haven’t missed a MacWorld Expo since 1994 and I would love to see a return to those heady days of smaller vendors with real demos and actual sales on the floor. Does anyone recall that vendor that sold product from a semi trailer and the crowds their operation drew? It hasn’t been near as much fun lately.

    I have high hopes for a re-invigorated MacWorld Expo

    • My best memory from MacWorld, pardon the pun, is the memory vendor that took Ghirardelli chocolate bars and made them look like SIMMS.

      I agree about the iPod/iPhone stuff. They need a separate pavilion or show just for that stuff.

  2. MacWorld started dying after 9/11. That initial 2002 show, the smaller developers learned that they were better off not spending money to exhibit at the show and just put those resources into their internet customer support.

    MacWorld really “jumped the shark” when in an effort to fill exhibit floor space they allowed in random vendors like suit case sales, DVD porn distributors, etc.

    MacWorld has been a shadow of itself in the past few years.

    • Adam Jackson

      I disagree. From a earnings and foot traffic standpoint, 2007-2008 were very good years for IDG World Expo.

      I attended every single show since 2003 (including the last boston expo). I don’t think Macworld was dead, it was just shifting based on the industry.

      We can’t lie to ourselves and say that The iPod, iPhone and Intel switch didn’t sculpt the entire mac community. It did change our community and Macworld, being an extension of that changed as well. It’s not chasing the money, it’s adapting. Sorry that there weren’t more Filemaker or Mac OS X Server presentations (which there were).

      And since 2003, I’ve never seen “DVD Porn Distributors”

  3. I like the idea of a traveling show. How about Portland, Phoenix, Dallas, Denver, Miami, Cleveland? Keeping it in one city every year (especially one right on the coast where it’s obscenely expensive) serves to do nothing but keep a huge group of people (usually ones located on the other coast) from attending year after year.

    I would also assume that a spring or fall date would be much better than summer or winter time frame.

    We shall see I guess.

  4. They should turn this expo into a movable feast. Almost every Mac developer has seen SF and would appreciate a new venue, particularly if it meant the costs of hotels and booths would be less.

    Moving to February and thus away from the holidays is a good move. Even better would be a date in Spring or Fall when the weather is good across most of the country. (Chicago in February? No way!) In Seattle, where I live, the weather is great in July and August, sunny but cool.

    At any rate, I wish them every success. I still get ticked off when I recall Apple’s ‘without us you’re dead’ attitude.