Tea leaves, goat entrails, and the many moods of Steve Jobs — these are portents people pore over for signs of the coming apocalypse. And so it goes with the sudden "shocking" announcement that a) Apple is divorcing the Macworld expo after 25 years of marriage, and b) Steve Jobs is not giving the keynote address this year.
To quote The Technologizer, Harry McCracken: "Wow. Wow. Wow."
Ladies and gentlemen, please start your speculation engines.
— Is Steve too sick to go on?
— Does this mean Apple has no more earth-moving gizmos to show us?
— Is Apple hurt by the
lousy dreadful scary economy even more than it appears?
— And what about the children? For god's sake, will somebody please think of the children?
Jason Snell, editor of Macworld (the magazine, which has nothing officially to do with Macworld the show — confused yet?) thinks this move is stupid, but not really surprising:
"I'm stunned that Apple has taken a 25-year-old event that has been the single best meeting place for the entire community of users and vendors of Apple-related products and treated it like a piece of garbage stuck to the bottom of its shoe. But I'm not really surprised: Apple has been leading up to this moment for a long time now."
Snell believes Macworld (the show) will be better off without Apple (the company). That's a little like saying Minnie Mouse would have been better off ditching Mickey and going for a solo career.
Macworld is actually run by IDG World Expo, one of the many arms of the IDG tech empire (Macworld the magazine is one arm, Infoworld is another). IDG is like Shiva, the Hindu goddess of destruction, on steroids — and about as intractable.
Jobs, of course, is the One Right and True Way in all things tech. He doesn't lose arguments, he just ends them.
So I suspect the explanation is far simpler. This abrupt announcement, coming just as the holidays descend upon us, has all the classic signs of a Jobs temper tantrum. Jobs wanted to change something major about the show. IDG said no, Steve said something like "Fine — see ya, wouldn't wanna be ya" — only with a lot more expletives thrown in.
Besides, Macworld needs Apple more than Apple needs Macworld. Back when the show started, Apple was a puny upstart. Now it's got its own stores and a worldwide developers conference and can crank up an enormous rumour machine simply by printing up a few "special event" invitations. There are still plenty of places for Steve to dust off the black turtleneck and wow us one more time.
Heck, when you've been immortalised by the The Simpsons, a trade show just doesn't mean that much any more.
But I, for one, will miss making turtleneck jokes.
Do you care about Macworld? Is Apple doing the right thing? E-mail me direct: firstname.lastname@example.org.