Longtime PC Magazine writer John Dvorak took the decidedly negative path in a recent post titled "Macworld Expo's Iffy Future." Based on a single quick walk through of the Expo captured on video, he concluded that the show is dead: "Last one? I think so."
After spending a few days at Macworld Expo 2010, I have exactly the opposite opinion to Dvorak. 2010 was the year that many vendors stayed away from the show, thinking that it just wasn't worth the time and effort. Nearly every exhibitor I talked to at the show said without reservation that they'd be back next year, and I've heard from many hardware and software vendors who say that even though they weren't in San Francisco this year, they'll be there in 2011. Just as I'm certain that spring crocuses will soon peek through the snow, I'm confident that Macworld Expo will be back in 2011 with even more exhibitors and visitors. Why? Let's go through some reasons.
1) Enthusiasm -- when you're just walking through an expo floor with a video camera, it's hard to get a feel for how much enthusiasm is running through the attendees. Those of us at the TUAW booth had the opportunity to talk with literally hundreds, if not thousands, of expo-goers, most of whom said they'd be back next year. We were not only talking to people who were new to the Apple world and seeing the Expo through fresh, unbiased eyes, but folks who had been going to Macworld since 1985.
2) Crowds -- if you watch Dvorak's video, you'll notice that he walks into some of the same human traffic jams that we saw every day. Sure, there are times where he's walking free and easy around the floor, but not every area was crowded at the same time. One common refrain I heard from many Expo-goers was that they wished the event had been held in a larger hall. Dvorak should also remember that this show happened in the midst of a recession with a 10% unemployment rate. If the economy had been doing well, the crowds would have been overwhelming.
3) Socializing -- for the Apple fan, Macworld Expo is the one steady event where you can go and meet others who are also fanboys. Whether you're just chatting with a vendor and other Mac or iPhone users at a booth, or attending one of the many parties that take place during the week, even the most introverted Apple geek can't help but be swept up in the sense of community.
4) Conference and Expo -- people tend to forget that the full name of Macworld is Macworld Conference & Expo, and that there are conference sessions that begin before the Expo floor is open. From comments I heard from many of the instructors who were participating, this year's conference sessions were well-attended and enthusiastic. Did John Dvorak attend any of the conference sessions? Not from what he stated in his post. Did he sit in on any of the Main Stage sessions? No, instead he panned the camera across the area in-between sessions, so of course it looked dead.
Dvorak does have a point that the show has relatively few Mac-related products, and the Macworld moniker just doesn't seem to fit anymore. Next year, we'll most likely see another Apple product -- the iPad -- and the iPhone as the big focus of the show, with the Mac taking a back seat to its younger siblings.
Personally, I'd like to see IDG World Expo rename the event to something that reflects this change in the Apple ecosphere. I'm sure they'd have to contend with Apple's trademark lawyers, but a name like Appleworld Expo would make a lot more sense in these times when the Mac isn't the only Apple product line.
Macworld Expo 2011 -- or whatever it may be called -- is scheduled for January 25-29, 2011. You can count on an enthusiastic contingent of TUAW bloggers happily attending the event again next year.