Saying goodbye to Macworld Expo

Yesterday, IDG announced that Macworld|iWorld will not take place next year, 2015. While the press release described Macworld as going on “hiatus,” the reality is that the event will almost certainly never return — in any form.

[Coincidentally, I decided to retire from speaking at Macworld last year. I delivered a “farewell” session, looking back at my career and at Macworld over the years. Little did I know that I was foreshadowing the farewell of Macworld itself.]

For those of us in the Apple community, the end of Macworld Expo (I never got used to its newer name; it will always be “the Expo” for me) means saying goodbye to yet another long-standing stalwart. Combined with the recent demise of the print version of Macworld magazine (also produced by IDG), it’s a particularly sad convergence.

At one time, Macworld magazine was the most respected, most authoritative and most popular magazine covering Apple products. Now it is gone, except as a reduced-in-scope website.

At one time, Macworld Expo was the biggest and most significant Apple event of the year (twice a year back in the day) for both the industry and consumers. Before Apple pulled out of the event, it was where Apple and Steve Jobs delivered the company’s most important keynotes, including the unveiling of the iPhone back in 2007.

After Apple pulled out, the Expo rebranded itself as Macworld|iWorld and struggled to survive. Now, the struggle has ended, but not in the way we would have liked.

Beyond Apple’s departure, if you want to blame someone or something for what happened to the Expo, blame the Internet. Expos are expensive to produce and expensive to attend. With blogs and live streaming and a wealth of related content instantly available on the web, it’s become too hard to make money holding a consumer-focused expo and just as hard to justify the cost of attending one. So, Macworld’s closure is not exactly a surprise. It’s following a trend that has already engulfed almost all other technology expos (such as Comdex).

I thought about writing a eulogy of Macworld Expo here. Ultimately, I decided it would be redundant. I’ve already written it — via the dozens of columns I’ve posted covering the Expo over the years. Three of these columns, in particular, focused on a long view perspective that, taken together, form as good a eulogy as anything I could write today:

Macworld Expo remembered. Written in 2008, shortly after Apple announced it would no longer be attending the Expo, this is my definitive look back at all the preceding years. If you want to know what Macworld Expo was like in its heyday and why it mattered so much, this is the one to read.

The Once and Future Macworld Expo. This was my assessment of the status of the Expo at what turned out to be the last year, 2011, that the event was called Macworld Expo.

Macworld|iWorld Reinvents Itself. Written in 2012, this was my op-ed on the transition of Macworld Expo to Macworld|iWorld.

Unfortunately, the final paragraph of the 2012 column did not turn out to be prophetic: “I for one am finished with laments about how Macworld used to be. This year’s Macworld | iWorld was jam-packed with more good stuff to see and hear than any one person could squeeze into their schedule. To me, that spells: success. Let the word go forth: Macworld is back!”

I only wish it were so.

For me, beyond the exhibit floor and the tech talks and the parties, the biggest personal loss of not having Macworld, is not having the annual opportunity to gather with all of my Apple community friends and colleagues, people that I otherwise only get to “see” virtually via Twitter and such. I don’t know if there will ever be something to replace this. I doubt it.

[A final personal note: Thanks to Paul Kent and Kathy Moran, the hard-working organizers of Macworld. What a great job they’ve done these past years. It’s been a privilege to have worked with them.]

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