Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Trade shows v. Apple stores

For the last twenty-four hours, the international computer world has been thrown into a feverish state of agitation following a couple of negative but innocuous announcements from Apple:

-- First, the company will no longer be participating in the traditional Macworld Expo in San Francisco, 5-9 January 2009.

-- Second, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs will not be delivering his usual keynote address at that trade show.

Many observers jumped immediately to the conclusion that Jobs must have a major health problem, in the wake of his bout with pancreatic cancer. It's true that, on recent occasions, he has had a lean and hungry look, but that's surely because (as Shakespeare put it) he thinks too much. Me too, if I were Jobs, I wouldn't bother too much about trivial stuff such as shaving, eating and sleeping. If I were Jobs, I reckon that I probably wouldn't even try to win friends and influence certain kinds of people. But I would surely be intent, like him, upon pushing forward the limits of the personal computing revolution. Readers will have understood: Steve Jobs is my personal Che Guevara!

The official Apple explanation of this doubly-negative announcement is that the company is less attracted, these days, by old-fashioned trade shows, because they've been developing bigger and better marketing vectors, notably in the form of so-called Apple stores, which are sprouting up like golden mushrooms in various high-profile places.

While I understand that people might be nostalgic about the glamorous ambience of mega-sized trade shows, and the excitement of listening to a charismatic Steve Jobs preaching from such pulpits, I don't feel that this has much to do with the joyful efficiency of working/playing with Apple's superb products.

It's sad to say so: The people who get the most upset about unexpected news from Apple are rich shareholders, who often know fuck all about computing and don't necessarily give a shit about this phenomenon (except to calculate their dividends). Do they really care a great deal about the health of the man in charge of ideas, apart from the fact that it would be annoying to have to replace him if he were no longer able to work? That's not personal computing. That's personal greed.

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