Apple CEO Steve Jobs will not be delivering the Macworld Conference & Expo keynote in January, and Apple plans to cease exhibiting at the conference in 2009, the company said Tuesday.
"Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers," the company said in a statement. "The increasing popularity of Apple's Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com Web site enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways."
The company said it has been steadily scaling back its presence in recent years at trade shows like NAB, Macworld New York, Macworld Tokyo, and Apple Expo in Paris.
The cost-cutting move is a blow to business media company IDG, which runs the Macworld conference.
The first Macworld show took place in 1985. Jobs has been delivering keynotes there since his return to Apple in 1997.
IDG did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
"It's not a surprise," said Tim Bajarin, president of consulting firm Creative Strategies. "Apple has been talking about withdrawing from Macworld for two years."
Trade shows have become much less important to Apple, he said, because they don't deliver the return on investment that they used to.
"You can reach people in a much more cost effective way than million-dollar booths," he said.
Bajarin believes Apple wants more freedom to release products on its own timetable, rather than designing around conference schedules.
Apple's decision could foreshadow problems for specialized trade shows. "Industry shows like CES I think will continue," he said. "Where you'll see more trouble is dedicated consumer or customer shows, where you're dealing with a particular platform."
Philip Schiller, Apple's avuncular senior VP of worldwide product marketing and frequent comedic foil during Jobs' presentations, will deliver the opening keynote at January's Macworld show.
Jobs' absence will almost certainly dampen the Macworld experience for attendees. For years, Apple fans have been waiting in long lines to see Jobs speak and, perhaps, announce "one more thing," the next shiny new Apple gadget.
Jobs' keynotes have become so much a part of Apple fan culture that there's a Wikipedia entry that traces the history of so-called "Stevenotes."
The choice of Schiller to deliver the keynote may also be seen by some as a hint of Apple's post-Jobs succession plan. Other names that have been suggested as possible candidates to take over Apple should Jobs step down include Apple COO Tim Cook and Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior VP of industrial design.