Sepia MacWorld

I’m reading the news of Apple pulling out of MacWorld with a touch of sadness. MacWorld Boston is long dead. It was only a matter of time before MacWorld San Francisco ended, too. It makes sense to me.

Consider the history of COMDEX. In it’s heyday, COMDEX rocked. There was excitement, drama, confusion. I attended my first COMDEX in 1991, my last in 2003. Fall COMDEX reigned supreme but I also have fond memories of Spring COMDEX in Atlanta. (Never made the Chicago show).

That last COMDEX was a week of the living dead. Sad. Like the last moments of an ailing pet.

COMDEX was a dealers expo. The conference tracks had more to do with channels than with end user training. It was a time of the backroom demo, of systems companies meeting with component suppliers, of mom and pop shops meeting with distributors. That time is past. Or, at least, has moved offshore.

MacWorld outlived COMDEX precisely because its focus, its purpose was different. Look at the conference tracks. MacWorld is less about refining the channel and reshaping manufacturing supply chains. Its more about the end user. And frankly, MacWorld is Apple’s big show, “Look at me.”

I felt MacWorld 2008–while interesting–was unnecessary. The Apple booth was packed but it was the SAME APPLE BOOTH. Adobe was noticeably scarce. Macromedia had been assimilated. Microsoft was promising big advances in Office 2008. Thankfully, the number of iPod skin vendors was down. It was a nice show. Like a nice visit with your favorite Aunt.

I would rather Apple bow out now at a pleasant MacWorld 2009 than drag out its inevitable death. I would have rather remembered COMDEX 1999 as the last hoorah than witness the emphysemic COMDEX 2003.

The world is changing. Computers are increasingly a commodity product. In the ’80s and ’90s, each year brought amazing new advancements to the relatively crude PC. The ’80s more so. I am lucky to have attended SOG in ’87. That event wasn’t a show, wasn’t an expo. However, the people who attended were the living soul of personal computing… and the revolution. Everyone I talked to was a gift. Every conversation a revelation. The big shows never had that.

There will still be Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference. Microsoft has the Professional Developers Conference. Adobe has an analogous event for designers/developers with Adobe Max. Intel has Intel Developer Forum. But the PC pioneer days are over.

If you really, really have a need to join La RevoluciĆ³n, there’s still some life left in the penguinistas. But you better hurry. Even Linux World is changing. It’s now OpenSource World. Still, it’s not the same as a computer show. It’s more of a movement.

The era of big shows is past. The personal computer industry has grown up. We now have smaller developer-focused shows. It’s the times we live in. It’s just this way. For now. Who knows what 2020 will bring.

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