If you're wondering why Apple's stock has taken a sharp dive this week, it may be because of one little announcement: Apple will stop delivering keynotes at the yearly Macworld Conference and Expo from 2010 onward, and Steve Jobs won't even show up at the 2009 show next month. Instead, the less charismatic Phil Schiller (Apple's Senior VP of Worldwide Product Marketing) will be taking care of the keynote. For the uninitiated, the Macworld show has played host to the theatrical introductions of the iPhone, MacBook Air, and Mac mini in recent years.
Considering Jobs' brush with pancreatic cancer in 2003 and his gaunt appearance at recent events, many are linking the announcement to his possible retirement—or worse. And Jobs' pivotal position as Apple co-founder, CEO, and de facto messiah would be difficult to replace indeed.
However, this isn't the first time Apple has pulled out of a major trade show. In 2002, the company similarly decided to stop attending the New York Macworld Expo (which was moving to Boston). Here's what long-time Apple blogger John Gruber commented back then:
So, to sum it up, the twice-yearly Expos (1) cost Apple millions of dollars; (2) put a lot of pressure on the company to make major product announcements on the Expos' schedule, not when the products are actually ready; (3) are not under Apple's direct control.
Gizmodo's Jesus Diaz also writes that an acquaintance at Apple told him two years ago, "We are going to phase out all trade shows." When asked if that included Macworld, the same friend replied simply, "Yes." After all, Apple gets huge amounts of media coverage no matter what nowadays, and the timing of the Macworld show forces the company to launch (or announce) products right after the holiday sales rush—not necessarily the best timing.
So, Apple's withdrawal from the January show isn't quite as shocking as some make it out to be. That still leaves the elephant in the room: why isn't Steve Jobs attending the last keynote? When asked a similar question, an Apple spokesman told Time, "Phil [Schiller] is giving the keynote because this is Apple's last year in the show, and it doesn't make sense for us to make a major investment in a trade show we will no longer be attending."
Gizmodo has a different interpretation: Steve Jobs may be slowly preparing to retire. The prolific CEO gave hints of his possible departure at the October keynote, when he left it largely up to his team to introduce the new aluminum MacBooks (and make other announcements) instead of hogging the stage for the whole show.