Apple announced today that 2009 will be the company’s last year at Macworld, and Steve Jobs will not give the keynote in January. People will be speculating endlessly about the “hidden reasons” for this – mainly rumors about Steve Jobs’ health – but Apple’s rationale is quite transparent. Here’s what the company said in their press release:
Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.
Here are three reasons why it’s a good move – especially in this weak economy:
- Trade shows are diminishing in importance. I went to Macworld last year and was underwhelmed. Most big tradeshows don’t really do anything to reach the average consumer. They may be fun for the “insiders” but there’s much more valuable information and community to be found online.
- Apple.com is a powerhouse. Apple is no longer a niche company that needs a tradeshow to reach a niche community. According to comScore, Apple was 5th busiest retail site on Cyber Monday following eBay, Amazon, Walmart, and Target, and beating Dell, HP, and Best Buy. The site drew nearly 3.7 million visitors – that’s many, many times more people than a trade show can draw.
- Smarter than Layoffs. On Fortune’s Apple 2.0 blog, the article about Apple’s Macworld departure starts with: “In a surprise move that shocked fans and troubled investors”. This should please investors – it’s a prudent move by a company that obviously recognizes the need to cut unnecessary costs in a worsening recession. Which would you rather see from Apple – departure from Macworld now or layoffs?
Special Events likely to continue in 2009
The company already makes a significant number of product announcements via “Special Events” held on its Cupertino campus. The press is invited to cover these product unveilings, they’re a much more focused, cost-effective way to make announcements (refreshments for 50-100 journalists at an event held on company property is much cheaper than booth rental, hotels, meals, etc. for a major presence at a trade show), and they generate a significant amount of coverage in the mainstream media, tech and business press, and blogs.
I’d bet that these Special Events will continue to take place in 2009.
Some people may be sad to see this change, and reflect on the nostalgia of Macworld keynotes past. I for one, would rather see Apple make smart financial moves, focus on great products, and stay healthy for years to come.