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Macworld Expo Mothballed after 30 Years

I had a sad phone call with Paul Kent of IDG World Expo last week, during which he shared the news that IDG is putting Macworld/iWorld “on hiatus” after a 30-year run. There will be no show in 2015, and I think it’s safe to say that there will never be another Macworld Expo as we have come to know it. The separate MacIT event, which focuses on deploying Apple technologies in the enterprise, will continue in 2015, and Paul will be shepherding its next instantiation.

IDG’s statement reads:

Macworld/iWorld will not take place in 2015 and the show is going on hiatus. The show saw a remarkable 30 year run that changed the technology industry, provided an important forum for Apple developers to bring new companies and products to market, delivered world class professional development to Apple product enthusiasts, and fostered the development of one of the most dynamic professional communities in the tech marketplace.

On behalf of IDG World Expo, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for having been an important part of this incredible journey. We offer our deepest appreciation to the entire Macworld/iWorld community.

Our MacIT event, helping Enterprise professionals with their Apple deployment projects, will continue in 2015 with exciting details to be announced in the coming weeks.

With this announcement coming on the heels of Macworld putting its print edition to rest, it has never been more clear that the massive changes engendered by the Internet have reshaped the world we live in. While at the Çingleton conference last weekend, I was reminiscing about my first Boston Macworld Expo in 1989 and the many pounds of paper I collected. Picking up brochures and handouts from every vendor was an essential task back then, since it was the only way to create a reference database of product information. When Tonya and I moved to Seattle in 1991, we brought four file drawers full of paper with us; when we returned to Ithaca in 2001, we didn’t even bring the empty filing cabinets back.

(As an aside, Çingleton won’t be continuing in 2015 either, but the underlying reasons are completely different. Çingleton, like predecessors C4 (see “C4 Conference Rethinks MacHack,” 20 August 2007) and MacHack/ADHOC (see “Adieu ADHOC,” 1 August 2005), was a small hotel-based conference put on by just a few people, not a corporation devoted to event management. While there were undoubtedly other factors, the key one in Çingleton’s case was the amount of time and effort it took out of the lives of the organizers, who had other jobs and businesses to run.)

Apple pulling out of Macworld Expo was a blow (see “Macworld Expo 2010 Reboots,” 15 February 2010), but the real knife in the side of the show — of most trade shows — was the rise of the Internet. For those of us in the press, meeting and talking with companies at the show was still worthwhile, but for normal users, it had become easier to learn about and get support for products online. The traditional trade show simply couldn’t compete.

The other sea change that hurt Macworld Expo is one that I still don’t fully understand. In the early days of the show, money flowed like water. Big companies paid tens of thousands of dollars for spacious booths and flashy parties, and while products cost significantly more back then, the overall market was far smaller. Now, even with Apple posting record profits every quarter and hundreds of millions of people using Apple devices, few Apple developers approach the size of the firms that filled multiple exhibition halls during the biannual Macworld Expos. The parties dried up even earlier, and while I can’t say that a party or even a booth was a worthwhile marketing expense, clearly people thought so back in the day. Perhaps the profits are there, but are spread out across so many more developers that few have the wherewithal to shoulder such marketing expenses. Or perhaps individual companies do have the money, but are using it for other purposes entirely.

Regardless, Macworld Expo is gone, and it will be missed. I can’t see any exhibit floor–based trade show springing up to replace it, but small, focused conferences are the future. Çingleton may be over, but I know of at least three more such conferences taking place in the next few weeks, CocoaLove in Philadelphia, NSScotland in Edinburgh, and MacTech Conference in Los Angeles, the last of which Tonya and I will be attending again. (Registration closes very soon for all three!) Further out, there’s the 2015 Úll conference in Ireland (see the Úll 2014 page for a sense of what goes on — I believe it’s pronounced “ool”), and I’m sure we’ll see others popping up as well.


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Comments about Macworld Expo Mothballed after 30 Years
(Comments are closed.)

Nick Prudent  2014-10-14 15:35
Very sad, but not unexpected. One thing Chris Breen touched on during his Macworld podcast today with Paul Kent is the generational divide amongst Apple consumers. People who grew up with the internet simply do not socialize at general tech conferences or trade shows. You can now interact with most companies directly via Twitter, Facebook or the various interest-centric web sites out there.

Also, as someone who had exhibited in big conferences before, I'm glad that that software marketing no longer require buying a booth space and paying unions for the privilege of meeting people looking for freebies. It's very hard to get a return on investment with a consumer-oriented show. Only good thing was meeting other businesses to make deals & partnership. I believe this is what MacIT will be focusing on for now on.

Things change, and as far as conferences go, I think it's for the best - Smaller targeted local events are the future.
Brian Steere  2014-10-21 09:25
"Apple consumers" - just the language tells the story.
The corporate 'conspiracy' operates to the consumer demand for unconsciousness - or perhaps more accurately, the power to avoid or hide fears.
As we define ourselves and our world in relation to ourselves so will we 'create' or reflect a world.
Consumer is a corporate term within a view that does not honour or appreciate the creative nature of relationship, communication and trust.
The Mac community - as was - shared an ethos that was in some sense embodied by Apple - particularly in its foundational years. Apple have changed and the world within which we all live has changed, but the core values that excite, move or inspire us do not change - though they may refine or revise their premises. Inbreeding of ideas doesn't embrace the shift required, so in that sense it can be good to let go the old to focus from a fresh appreciation of who we are and where we are going - in which we are excited or inspired participance in relationship
Charlie Hartley  2014-10-14 16:21
Forgive an old man reminiscing, but this took me back to the late 80's when we had a technology conference for teachers in Louisville KY. Two things I remember with fondness: the session I presented on using "Where in the World is Carman Sandiego?" in middle school; and the "Death by Chocolate" feast put on by somebody representing Apple. Obviously those were Apple // days. I remember preparing materials for 40 people and having nearly twice that many crowd into the room. At that time, teachers were hungry for something/anything to help them make use of their handful or two of new computers. Times do change (but not my taste for chocolate covered strawberries).
Jim Matthews  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2014-10-15 16:05
The 80s Macworld parties were something else. I remember Dantz (Retrospect) and Aladdin (StuffIt) offering lavish food and beverage spreads in hotel suites. Even nicer than the 1983 Comdex suite depicted recently on the AMC show Halt and Catch Fire. Exhibitors offered freebies galore. There was a sense that Apple marketing people had money to burn, at a time when the company was much, much less successful than it is now.

There's an old line that half of the money spent on advertising is wasted, but no one knows which half. Maybe the industry collectively decided that in the Internet era, parties and conferences might be in that half.
Brian Steere  2014-10-21 06:25
A consolidation of power has been occurring along the lines of any other crystallising paradigm. The frontier days are over - except as fed out within controlled 'Malls' as the current crop of 'owner/controllers' now fight to gain or hold mindshare.
The recognition of the shift to a consolidating controlling power model - as opposed to a cooperative or federated diversity of symbiotic interests, is indicated by the reference to what no one can speak about (and often cannot find the terms to even articulate without seeming to be invalid, unreal or crazy). Such is the very nature of power - in that it asserts itself in ways that deny even the possibility to challenge it - excepting within its own front ended version of 'democracy' in which tokenism passes as proof that freedom prevails.
Now I used the term power in first instance, but what I really mean is the operation of self-interest within the framework of negatively or fearfully defined self/world. As Steve Jobs exclaimed, (sigh..!