Apple's Biggest Macworld Surprise Isn't a Product  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in

With one brief press release, Apple managed to blow away the steady breeze of rumors about its Macworld 2009 product announcements. January's Macworld Expo will be Apple's last; and, perhaps more importantly, it will not feature Apple CEO Steve Jobs. What's behind these decisions? I have my ideas.

When I attended Apple's iPod touch 2G/nano 4G press announcement in September, Jobs looked thin—really thin. Rumors had been swirling since his iPhone 3G event several months earlier that one of the world's most watched and most intriguing CEOs was seriously ill. There was even an erroneous report of his death. Still, Jobs made light of the rumors just a month later during October's MacBook Pro announcement, putting his healthy blood pressure scores (110/70) up on the big screen for all to see. Phil Schiller, Apple's Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, who will deliver the Macworld keynote address, has often shared the stage with Jobs during these events, but it's invariably been Job's place to make the big announcements. Is he simply too ill to do it, or is he just tired of the endless scrutiny about his health? These are questions I can't answer, but you can be sure Apple stockholders are desperate to know.

With Jobs out of this next Macworld Expo, the buzz about what kinds of products Apple will announce next month could dim considerably, but that would be a mistake. I think our desktop analyst Joel Santo Domingo is spot on in his predictions: new iMacs are almost a given, and I really do expect (maybe the more accurate phrase is "hope for") a new, hot product to drive Apple sales in 2009. I just don't know what it is. Schiller may not deliver the news with Jobs' trademark "one more thing" panache, but exciting products usually provide their own steam.

Apple claims to be pulling out of any future Macworld Expos because "the increasing popularity of Apple's Retail Stores … and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways." That rings true, and has nothing to do with Jobs' health. The company knows that when it wants to announce something big, the press will come to it. We've done it repeatedly through 2008, and will do it again in 2009.

Ultimately, Apple is playing the innovator again, and where it treads, others will follow. A tough economy is a nightmare for tradeshows. Floor space is expensive, and travel, hotel rooms, food, and parties for clients, support staff, and PR teams are a bottomless cash pit. When times are tough, trade show sponsorship and attendance are often some of the first things to go.

Apple's had a good year: Millions of iPhones sold, a booming App Store business, and tiny gains in the PC sales space all count as highlights. Still, the outlook from some analysts is not all that sunny. Apple's desktop sales did not grow at the same rate as PC sales in November, and I noticed a few analysts predicting flattening iPod sales in 2009. So Apple, like every other company, has to look for ways to maximize impact and minimize expenses—out goes tradeshow support. (full Story)

This entry was posted on Dec 19, 2008 at 8:40 AM and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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