Low End MacRound Table

Looking Back at Macworld Expos Past

Low End Mac Staff - 2012.01.20

Ad promoting the first Macworld Expo
Ad promoting the first Macworld Expo.

The Macintoshwas introduced in January 1984, and the first Macworld Expo was held inSan Francisco's Moscone Center in 1985. Sponsored by Macworld magazine,the first magazine devoted exclusively to Macs, the first Expo was heldFeb. 21-23, 1985 and attended by approximately 10,000 Mac fans. (Thefirst Macworld Expo had to share the Moscone Center with a boat showthat had been booked for the same weekend.)

The first summer Macworld Expo was held in Boston on August 21-23,1985 and gave Mac lovers the opportunity to see Macintosh Office: TheMac 512K, thefirst LaserWriter, andAppleTalk networking. There would be an Boston Expo until 1997, whenApple pushed Macworld to move the Expo to New York City, where itremained until 2003. For 2004 and 2005, the Expo returned to Boston,but without an official Apple presence, and IDG announced in Late 2005that there would no longer be an East Coast Expo.

Since 1997, Steve Jobs has given the keynote address, earning it thenickname Stevenote.

The San Francisco Macworld Expo moved to early January in 1986 andremained there until 2010, when IDG moved the Expo to February. It hassince moved to late January, and the 2012 Expo was renamed Macworld| iWorld in recognition of the importance of Apple's iOS platform,which is selling in far greater numbers than Macs.

This week our staff looks at the pros and cons of the Macworld Expomoving from early January to later in the month.

Dan Knight (Mac Musings):Macworld Expo was always a great way to start the new year. Very littlehappened in the Apple orbit starting a few days for Christmas and intothe first week or so of the new year. Having Macworld Expo in earlyJanuary gave us something to look forward to, something to spikeinterest in Macs, and for those of us in snowy climes, an opportunityto get away to San Francisco.

There were two issues the Expo had to face, perhaps the biggestbeing the International Consumer Electronic Show that almost alwaysoverlapped Macworld. It wasn't an issue for Apple and companies thatonly worked in the Apple sphere, but for companies that supported bothMacs and Windows - or later iPhones or iPods and competing devices - itwas a question of whether to cater to the Mac fanatics, ignore them andgo for the masses at CES, or bite the bullet and have booths at bothshows.

The other issue was that Mac fans knew the Expo was coming and thatApple would almost always have one or two new Macs, so they would deferbuying in the last quarter of the year unless they absolutely had tomake a purchase. After all, come January, Apple might have an evenbetter model! I don't know how much impact that had on Mac sales, but Iknow that I would advise people looking at Macs in November andDecember to wait until the Expo if they could.

Moving the Macworld Expo later in January removed some of thatbuyer's remorse. "I just bought this for the family for Christmas, andtwo weeks later Apple replaced it." Particularly in that regard, I washappy to see the Expo move to late January/early February. And it alsoeliminates the overlap with CES.

Dan Bashur (Apple, Tech, and Gaming): I can alwaysremember the Expo and how much it meant to fans. Groundbreakingannouncements were made there along with some exciting (and somewhatinfamous) product launches. The two Expos that stick out in my mind themost that signaled the beginning of the end of an era and the rebirthof Apple as a company include the 1993 and 1997 Boston events. TomHormby of Low End Mac recounts the tale of the Apple Newton in hisarticle,which in terms of man hours versus sales was a tragic failure forApple. The cheesy ads in taxi cabs and the eagerness to unload as manyNewtons as possible at Macworlds 1993 was so un-Apple like. The Newtonwas a moderate success in terms of units sold, but when the tens ofthousands of man hours spent on the project were combined with anexpensive marketing campaign, the Newton was not one of those brightspots in the history of Apple. As much as we looked forward to theNewton at Macworld, the fanfare did not live up to its potential, hadthe struggle not been so great to get the Newton project off theground.

On the other hand, 1997 ushered in a time where we all felt touchedby a visionary who would retake the reins of the company he helpedcreate and would bring back the company from the ashes. One of Steve'smost famous "Stevenote" speeches was made at the 1997 Macworld Expo,and with Steve soon back at the helm (as "interim" CEO until thatbecame permanent), every following Macworld was reinvigorated withexcitement leaving crowds bewildered. The room would go silent whenSteve took the stage until the usual thunderous roar and applause thatwould follow his announcements, especially that "one more thing." Itwas sad when Apple pulled out of the event and began reservingannouncements for other events such as the WWDC. I hope that Tim Cookwill bring Apple back to the event and return it to true form. Macworldwas like the Comic Con or E3 for Apple fans, and the Expo itself can berevived with the presence of the company that made the Expo an eventthat millions looked forward to in the first place.

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