Just in case you haven’t heard, next year’s Macworld / iWorld event is changing times and locations. Rather than being held in January at Moscone West, Macworld / iWorld 2014 will instead be held March 27-29 in the larger Moscone North hall. Ostensibly to facilitate exhibitor and attendee concerns regarding “holiday and other winter travel complications,” the show’s new dates and location provide the show a better position on a number of fronts.
Macworld Expo is Dead…
…long live iWorld! Attendees of Macworld 2012 were greeted by a surprise—the addition of iWorld to the conference’s title (quite literally added with a pipe character, as the event was called Macworld|iWorld 2012). Previously unpsoken, this was the overt signal that the Mac’s role was diminished; the plethora of iPhone and iPad accessories at previous Macworld expos—as well as those devices’ domination of CES despite Apple’s absence—made it pretty clear that an entire show dedicated to Macintosh hardware and software simply wasn’t feasible. Even Apple had moved on, dropping the word “computer” from their name some five years earlier. On the show floor, the Appalooza section was clearly the place to be, and the busiest booths were those showing novel iPhone and iPad accessories.
Fast forward to Macworld / iWorld 2013, and the Mac as a product was practically non-existent on the show floor. The buzz at the show focused on apps (mainly iOS), cloud services, and accessories like speakers, stands, or digital GPS wristwatches that happily sync with your iPhone, Mac, or Android devices. This was a purely consumer electronics show, and represented Macworld expos of years past in name only; many longtime attendees bemoaned the bazaar-like atmosphere that permeated the show, as most of the exhibitors were also selling their wares at a brisk clip.
Worse still, the show now suffers from major competition less than a month before, in the form of the mega show CES.
Out of the Shadow
Walking around Macworld this year was a highly repetitive experience. Approach a booth, see a cool product and ask a PR person for the details. “Oh, this is the iThingymabobby, and we just launched it at CES a couple weeks ago! It has a companion app and…” Time. And again. Despite being an immense player, Apple is now a big fish in the giant ocean of consumer electronics, rather than the second biggest fish in the smaller puddle of traditional PCs. They’re competing with myriad other companies who make everything from heavy machinery to smartphones to medical imaging equipment, and most of their competitors use CES to launch (or at least announce shaky intentions to launch) new gadgets. Even the narrower niche of the CE market for smartphones and tablets is crowded with competitors and features, at least two behemoth operating systems, and several lower-tier players. Ultimately, Macworld just isn’t a big enough draw for consumers or media to justify its use as a platform for major product launches, which feeds decreased attendance.
The change in date for next year’s Macworld expo gives it enough distance from CES that it could conceivably be used as a launch pad for new products. CES, despite being a major event, does have one serious flaw; it happens very close to the winter holiday season, which is huge for consumer electronics. Most companies do their big announcements in time for holiday shopping, not three weeks after, but the end of March is far enough away to launch new products for a new year. Most people have paid off their holiday credit card bills, and many (at least in the US) get a spike of disposable income with their tax returns. Not to mention the dates are right smack in the middle of Apple’s previous launch window for new iPads, so maybe we’ll see the return of an Apple keynote?
Predictions for the Future
The possibility of Apple’s return to the show isn’t entirely crazy (though it is probably unlikely). Adobe returned to this year’s Macworld after a notable absence with a booth touting their Photoshop Touch app and Revel photo management/sharing tools—both squarely focused on consumers rather than Adobe’s typical creative pro market. There are certainly other big-name exhibitors who are expanding into apps, so maybe we’ll see the return of other attendees from years past like Filemaker or Quark? Now that the iDevice ecosystem is maturing, there may just be enough critical mass for a show as large as Macworld, but instead focused on the iDevices.
In addition to the time shift, next year’s expo will be happening in the larger Moscone North expo hall, which is not unexpected given numerous mentions of the high rebook rate for Macworld 2013 exhibitors. Exhibitors were clearly excited to not only show but sell their wares, and the original plans for a weekend-centric Macworld 2014 provided more opportunity for consumer foot traffic. Although the new dates don’t incorporate a full weekend, they are further from the winter holidays (where many people blow lots of vacation days), and are closer to many school’s spring break dates. Hopefully this is the beginning of a positive feedback cycle of larger shows that attract more attendees.
iWorld 2014 appears poised to supersede Macworld for top billing, so enjoy your nostalgia while it lasts…and prepare for the new consumer expo in town.
Be sure to update your calendars for Macworld / iWorld 2014 from March 27-29, and check out AppleTell’s full coverage if you can’t make it out to San Fran yourself.