January 6, 2009

Speculations Abound In Anticipation Of Macworld 2009

Expectations are low during this year's Macworld conference in San Francisco, an event that is traditionally hyped up more like a rock concert than a developers' meeting.

One reason for the lack of anticipation is the fact that this year marks the first Macworld event in which Apple's founder and chief executive will not address the audience.

Last month, Jobs announced he would not be addressing the conference due to ongoing health concerns. On Monday, Jobs announced he has been suffering from a hormone imbalance that caused him to lose weight.

"I will be the first one to step up and tell our Board of Directors if I can no longer continue to fulfill my duties as Apple's CEO," said Jobs.

Apple's board supported Jobs' decision.

"If there ever comes a day when Steve wants to retire or for other reasons continue to fulfill his duties as Apple's CEO, you will know it," the board said in a separate statement. "He deserves our complete and unwavering support."

Instead, Philip W. Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, will be taking Jobs' place on the stage, which has been enough to effectively lull the rumor mill.

"When Jobs is giving a keynote, it's like, 'Ooh! Aah!' And I don't know if this year will be quite the same," Jeremy Hill, an information technology specialist at Penn State University told CNN. "This doesn't seem to be as anticipated an event as it usually is. The rumor mill's been fairly quiet."

What's more, Apple has announced that this year will mark of the end of an era of Macworld conferences "“ an event which has witnessed the unveiling of such Apple mainstays as iTunes and the iPhone.

Jobs' decision not to deliver the last-ever Macworld keynote address spurred speculation that this year's event won't be as revealing and full of fanfare as many before it.

"With Phil Schiller delivering the keynote, we believe it suggests there will not be any revolutionary products at this year's event," said Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster told The Wall Street Journal. "As a result, [Wall] Street expectations for the event are low.

"We expect MacWorld to be relatively unexciting," Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi wrote in a note to clients on Monday.

At 9:30 a.m., New York Times blogger Brad Stone began his coverage of the event by noting the obvious "change in the cast."

"Steve Jobs will not be delivering today's speech, and after this year, Apple will not be taking part in this overhyped annual conference at all any more," Stone wrote.

"You can blame the company's diminishing tolerance for a grueling post-holiday January ritual, or Mr. Jobs' health, but the fact remains that at noon Eastern time, Apple's marketing guru, Phil Schiller, will take the stage. Try not to look disappointed. There may be a few surprises in store yet."

It's that kind of cautious optimism that surrounds Macworld this year.

Still, Apple fans may be hoping for new announcements to include a new Mac Mini, iMac, which is well overdue for an upgrade, Mac OS X 10.6, known as "Snow Leopard", or even new iPhone Nanos.


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