Macworld 2011 last week raised a few important questions for the Mac (s aapl) community. These are the questions I was asked most frequently by Mac-loving friends who couldn’t attend this year and people on Twitter. You’ll notice that the effect of Apple’s continued absence at the show is a prevailing theme.
What was the show floor like?
The first thing that struck me when I walked into the Macworld 2011 show floor on Thursday was how small it seemed when compared to years past. The show is entirely contained on the three floors of Moscone West. It used to be spread across both Moscone North and South (much bigger halls) for the expo and conference, and Steve Jobs gave his keynote in Moscone West. The booths are generally smaller and more tightly packed, however, so where the floor felt a little loose last year, this year there’s a sense of closely wound frenzy.
Who was there?
There are a lot of exhibitors here, but more first-time exhibitors, and more iDevice accessory vendors. Some of the biggest names in Mac software are missing: Microsoft(s msft), Adobe(s adbe), Filemaker. Stepping up to take the anchor role are Omni Group, Nuance, Dr. Bott, HyperMac, and Smart Tech. Still, it does feel like there’s a definite lack of Mac hardware and software at the show, which I suppose makes perfect sense in a world where Apple sold only 4 million Macs last quarter, but 7 million iPads, 16 million iPhones, and almost 20 million iPods.
What was there to see?
I was hoping to find the cool stuff on the expo floor, figure out what was new and shiny and worth sharing with you today, but I’m at a loss. An old friend ran into me their and asked what I thought was the best thing on the floor, and I struggled to answer. There doesn’t seem to be much new on the Mac side, or for iOS devices either. Certainly nothing that struck me as groundbreaking. There is still cool stuff, to be sure, and plenty to check out, but I think ultimately vendors are moving away from the idea that they need to come to the show with huge announcements.
What was the crowd like?
Vendors at the show do seem to be happy with the foot traffic, particularly in the morning. One large software vendor shared that it brought the same amount of printed materials as last year, and had gone through more than half of them in the first day. Another well-known software company shared that even though it didn’t bring product to the show this year, it sold more units through its online ordering at the booth this year than it did physical product at the show last year. So apparently people are still coming to the show floor, and are still interested in buying software for their Mac. That sort of customer presence and engagement portends well for the continuation of Macworld.
The Conference sessions seemed to be well-attended by Mac professionals, which is a good sign for the show because vendors are extremely interested in getting time to talk to these folks specifically.
Was it fun?
Absolutely! I’ve been going to Macworld, off and on, since 1986 or so. I love seeing what’s going on with the Mac community and I love meeting up with colleagues and vendors that have become friends over the years. The best part for me isn’t the technology itself, but the people.
Will it last?
It certainly seems premature to declare that the shrinking floor size portends the imminent death of Macworld Expo. It may be smaller, but it is still strong and very much alive. It certainly seems to me that Macworld 2012 will be a success if it matches the success of this year’s event.
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