Apple Leaves MacWorld: It's About Time

Apple has just announced that this January’s MacWorld event will be the company’s last, and that Steve Jobs won’t be giving the event’s much-anticipated keynote (Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, will be taking his place). Stocks are sure to tumble on the news as rumors of Jobs’s health are rekindled, but in reality this move has probably been a long time coming.

MacWorld’s timing as a January event has always been questionable – many consumers have long since learned not to purchase Apple products in the weeks leading up to the event, which likely resulted in lost sales during the holiday shopping season. When Apple has had something major to announce it has managed to totally overshadow the competing Consumer Electronics Show (as they did with the iPhone), but Apple just can’t produce such blockbuster products at regular intervals.

As John Gruber pointed out back in 2002:

“That means every January, and every July, Jobs delivers a keynote, and at each of these keynotes, the Mac community expects to hear about Great New Things. This is doubly troublesome for Apple. For one thing, people have learned not to buy new Macs during the month before each Expo, because there’s a decent chance that something brand new is going to be announced at the upcoming keynote. Obviously, that’s not good for sales.

Worse, however, is that the schedule for keynotes is set in stone: January and July. The schedule for new products, however, is unpredictable. It would be much better for Apple if they could simply announce new products — especially major new product lines — when they’re ready to sell them.”

The move to pull Jobs from the keynote may simply be a way to lower expectations. Apple probably isn’t keen on releasing a big new product in the current economy (assuming it has something ready in the first place), and it would look silly to have Steve Jobs to present a keynote whose highlights were limited to an iTunes Plus update and maybe a Mac Mini (I don’t buy the netbook theory).

So keep your cool. Apple is still on track and Jobs is probably doing just fine. At least I hope he is.