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Macworld Expo Moves to Mid-February

Much as Macworld Expo has been a linchpin in the Macintosh industry since the earliest days of the Mac, one aspect of it has long caused grief for attendees and exhibitors alike: the dates. The San Francisco show has traditionally occurred in early January, usually the first full week of the month; an awkward time of year for most people. Now, thankfully, IDG World Expo has announced that the 2010 Macworld Expo in San Francisco will take place roughly a month later, from Tuesday, February 9th, through Saturday, February 13th.

Paul Kent, General Manager for Macworld Conference & Expo, told me, “Our goal with the date change is to make the show better meet the needs of both attendees and exhibitors. This is just the first step in a story that’s going to evolve over the next 11 months.”

Along with the date change, Macworld Conference & Expo 2010 (note the new official title, reflecting the shared emphasis on conference sessions with floor exhibits) will be the first time in memory that a Saturday has been included in the schedule. Although many people who work in downtown San Francisco can drop in on the show briefly during the work day, the weekday-only schedule of the past has prevented many consumers and educators from attending.

Macworld’s conference sessions will take place in Moscone West for all five days, whereas the show floor will only be open in Moscone North the last three days, from 11-Feb-10 through 13-Feb-10.

For some exhibitors, the date change will relieve the pressure on finalizing products to ship at the show, a task that has in the past tended to coincide with the holiday season. Readying software – not just the coding, but also preparing marketing materials and booth space – for the show becomes all the harder as employees start preparing for the holidays, taking time off to be with family and friends, and generally collapsing in exhaustion from the year’s exertions.

Eric Ullman, Director of Product Management in the Retrospect group at EMC, said, “Product schedules are always difficult, but having a delivery date in the first full week of the year complicates things significantly. It’s best to have the project wrapped up before the holidays, but that almost never happens, at least not with software. You work up to the last minute, and for Macworld Expo, that has traditionally included – and sometimes ruined – the holidays.”

Welcome though it is, the date change on its own isn’t likely to cause many developers to decide to exhibit at Macworld Expo. Rich Siegel, CEO of Bare Bones Software, said, “I think it’s very hard for anyone to call a ‘yes/no’ decision based on the date change alone, but as both a visitor and a potential exhibitor, there are definitely some upsides in the date change.”

That said, 90 exhibitors have signed letters of intent to exhibit at Macworld Expo 2010 already, and Kent said that IDG World Expo is trying to reduce the price of exhibiting. IDG has cut the cost of booth space by 20 percent, to $43 per square foot, and they’re working with the vendors that exhibitors rely on for booth services to cut costs as well.

Early January can also be a difficult time for attendees who have to travel longer distances to San Francisco, since the show often comes uncomfortably close on the heels of other holiday travel. Plus, although airfares and hotel rates vary widely, the middle of February is generally an off-season, so it’s possible that these services will be a bit cheaper for both attendees and exhibitors alike. That’s especially true for exhibitors, who often need to travel several days in advance of the show, which in early January can easily result in higher holiday-induced travel costs.

Although Kent said that the date change had nothing to do with avoiding the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which generally coincides with Macworld Expo, large exhibitors and members of the press will appreciate not having to undertake two trade shows nearly simultaneously.

On a personal note, the date change makes life a bit easier for Tonya and me, since Macworld Expo has conflicted with our son Tristan’s early January birthday each year. And although travelling home on Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be ideal, maybe we’ll just stay an extra day and do something like the San Francisco Gourmet Chocolate Tour, weather permitting. (Though we’ve lucked out in recent years in January, San Francisco weather is usually slightly warmer and drier in February, another plus.)

The reason why the earliest Macworld Expos took place in early January remains shrouded in history. I’ve heard speculation that the first Macworld Expo would have been scheduled on relatively short notice (for the trade show world, where dates are locked up well in advance) and thus only the undesirable first week in January was available. I’ve also heard that, in the early days, Apple had a sales conference for its sales reps in early January, making it convenient for all parties that Macworld Expo occur at roughly the same time. Whatever the reason, most people I’ve spoken with are extremely happy about the change.

For anyone interested in presenting at Macworld Expo 2010, IDG World Expo has opened an online call for papers page.

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